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DATA-CAN features in new report on Cancer Care in Ireland during COVID-19 pandemic

3rd December 2021

A new report, featuring DATA-CAN, highlights the impact that COVID-19 has had on cancer diagnostics and treatment in Ireland in 2020.

The report – Cancer Care in Ireland in 2020 – the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is a collaboration between the Faculty of Pathology (Royal College of Physicians of Ireland), National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP),  National Specialty Quality Improvement Programmes in Histopathology, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), GI Endoscopy and Radiology, National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI), Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and DATA-CAN (the UK’s Health Data Research Hub for Cancer).

It details the reduction in activity experienced across the cancer services pathway during 2020, most marked during the first wave of the pandemic in March to June 2020. There was variable recovery in all aspects of presentation, diagnosis, and treatment from June 2020 onward however activity overall did not reach 2019 levels.  

Prof Mark Lawler Professor of Digital Health Queen’s University Belfast and Scientific Director DATA-CAN, the UK’s Health Data Research Hub for Cancer said,

“COVID-19, like cancer, knows no borders, so it is important to share expertise and data intelligence between different countries in order to identify the key challenges that COVID has posed to cancer services and cancer patients. We have been delighted to work with our colleagues in Ireland and bring our experience to bear so that they can develop key data-informed insights. Equally, the intelligence generated by this study and highlighted in this report will also support us in identifying tangible solutions that work for us all, so we can mitigate the impact of COVID and ensure the best possible outcomes for our patients.”

Prof Louise Burke lead author and Dean of the Faculty of Pathology said of the report: 

“Notwithstanding the huge efforts and commitment of all staff in cancer services and the a collaboration between the Faculty of Pathology (Royal College of Physicians of Ireland), National Cancer Control Programme to the continuation of diagnosis, treatment and support to cancer patients throughout the on-going pandemic, the data in this report, and that of a parallel analysis by the National Cancer Registry Ireland, suggests a ten to 14 per cent drop in cancer diagnoses in 2020. Cancer treatments did not appear to be as adversely affected as diagnostics during this period. For example, the number of cancer resections reported in 2020 was 96 per cent of 2019 figures.

“The key message from this report is to encourage and support the public to take early action and contact their healthcare provider if they have signs or symptoms of a possible cancer. They should also attend cancer screening services when invited.”