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Improved cancer survival figures revealed recently are being put at serious risk by pandemic-related disruption, according to the Irish Cancer Society. Commenting on the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI) annual report, the Society’s CEO Ms Averil Power said: “While it is heartening to hear that progress is being made for devastating cancers like breast, lung and prostate according to latest figures up to 2019, we are very worried that significantly less cancers were diagnosed last year.

“This will present a major challenge for years to come, and is unfortunately no surprise, as already struggling cancer services have been stretched to breaking point during the pandemic. Lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to vital diagnostic and screening services are now all too commonplace. “Patients are telling us that they are terrified of having their treatment delayed given the current spike in Covid case numbers and are very distressed about the worrying consequences to their health from catching the virus, and the further risk of treatment delays that this would bring.

“We are particularly concerned about recent surgery cancellations, as the ‘non-urgent’ cases of today will only become more serious and difficult to treat the longer they are left, not to mention the mental anguish this causes for patients,” she continued. “The Irish Cancer Society is collaborating with researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and others on a muchneeded project to get a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic on cancer services.

In the meantime, we need the Government to step up and put a massive effort into clearing waiting lists and securing cancer services for patients nearly two years into this crisis. “The NCRI report shows that as many as one-in-eight cancers that were predicted to be diagnosed in 2020 were not. Although there has been an encouraging trend of people seeking medical help so far [in 2021], waiting times for diagnostic tests remain too long and these must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“It is frightening to think that there are people in our community with cancer who don’t know it yet. We would plead with anyone with a cancer concern or symptom to talk to their doctor or call our Freephone 1800 200 700 Support Line without delay, as we do not want potentially treatable cancers to go too far.”