Oncologists fear “bug wave” of too late diagnosed cancer cases

oncologists fear 'bug wave' of too late diagnosed cancer cases

Scientists and doctors warn of a "bug wave of late diagnosed cancer traps" in the corona crisis.

So far, cancer patients have not had to fear any threatening bottlenecks in care, but the crisis situation is having a noticeable impact, according to the german cancer research center (DKFZ), german cancer aid and the german cancer society. Whether the number of cancer cases could increase as a result, the experts love open for now.

Cancer treatment is basically assured even now, said gerd nettekoven, head of the german cancer aid foundation’s executive board. "But we now also recognize that the care system is under considerable stress and that the constraints imposed by the crisis situation can have a negative impact on cancer patients."

Clinic beds are currently being kept free – for corona patients who, due to the development of the epidemic, did not come in the high numbers initially feared. Early detection programs have been cut back, as have some specialized cancer examinations. Non-essential operations were postponed.

"We deliberately put the brakes on appointments that are not urgent," says cancer physician at the ludwig-maximilians-universitat munich (LMU) hospital, michael von bergwelt. "If a patient had breast cancer five years ago, it makes no difference whether she comes in for a checkup a month earlier or later."Clinic visits in non-urgent cases should be reduced, but also clinics should be prepared for the possible onslaught of corona patients.

Whether there will be more cancer deaths in the wake of the corona crisis is not yet foreseeable, bergwelt said. "In a scenario where the health care system is overwhelmed over a longer period of time, it must be so. My hope, however, based on the experience of the past few weeks, was that this is largely preventable."

Currently, the guidelines for the treatment of certain oncological patients have been expanded. "One must advise on this basis very individually: how pronounced is the desire to proceed with treatment now, how great is the fear of going to the hospital now?"Acute leukemia, for example, must be treated immediately. The company is always "on the lookout".

"A suspension of early detection and clearance tests can only be tolerated for a short period of time, otherwise tumors may not be detected until an advanced stage with a then poorer prognosis," emphasizes michael baumann, chief executive officer of the german cancer research center. "We are currently observing that people are not having symptoms cleared up by doctors."

Patients stay away in surgeries and clinics: fear of infection. Last but not least, cancer patients with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. "We see significantly fewer cancer patients," says bergwelt. "We are concerned that some patients may no longer see a doctor or even go to the hospital for fear of infection," warns karl-walter jauch, medical director at the LMU hospital and chairman of the university medicine of bavaria. These fears had to be taken away from people.

Even before corona, experts expected cancer to rise. According to the world health organization (WHO), the number will almost double by 2040. According to the world cancer report published by the international agency for research on cancer (IARC), 18.1 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and 9.6 million died of cancer. In 2040, between 29 and 37 million people were allowed to become newly ill. Baumann also assumed such a development at the beginning of february. The reasons for this are the growing and aging world population, but also "lifestyle factors".

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