Alumni engagement and philanthropy

NEW LANDMARK TOOL IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON CANCER LAUNCHED  Professor Mark Lawler in jacket and tie in quad at Queen's University Belfast

24 November 2021

As part of the ‘Time to Act’ campaign, the European Cancer Organisation is launching its Data Navigator, making key data on the impact of Covid-19 on cancer available across European countries.

The ‘Time to Act’ Data Navigator was launched (on Thursday 18 November) at the annual European Cancer Summit. Researchers at Queen’s, working with a team as part of the European Cancer Organisation, have developed the novel interactive tool that presents data on the impact of Covid-19 on cancer across an initial set of 17 European countries. 

Covid-19 has dramatically affected cancer control and care delivery across Europe. Data Intelligence work has indicated that an estimated 100 million screening tests were not performed overall in Europe, as many as one million European citizens may be going around with an undiagnosed cancer, while up to half of all cancer patients were affected by treatment delays.

The burden of Covid-19 has also impacted healthcare workers’ wellbeing, with 40% of them feeling burned out and 30% showing signs of clinical depression. 

Designed as an interactive map of Europe, the Data Navigator gathers for the first time a large body of intelligence at the national and pan-national level on the impact of Covid-19 on cancer. Based on the analysis of over 200 data sources, it visualises key data and country profiles on, for example, stalled cancer screening programmes, missed cancer diagnoses, delayed cancer treatments, and the impact on healthcare workers’ mental health during the pandemic. It is a living tool, to which anyone may submit new data to be considered for inclusion.  

Key insights made available by the Data Navigator include: 

  • In the UK, more than 650,000 cancer patients experienced disruption to their cancer treatment or care because of Covid-19, while almost one million women missed vital screening appointments. There was a 41.5% drop in attendances at chemotherapy clinics. 
  • In France, there has been an estimated 200 backlog days in chemotherapy services. 
  • In Italy, 71.74% of healthcare professionals working in breast cancer centres experienced mild to extremely severe stress levels during Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • In Romania, 77.5% patients had difficulties attending required medical services during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • In Poland, the number of mammography tests performed in April-May 2020 fell by 94% as compared to 2019. 
  • In Spain, 38% of lung cancer cases were undiagnosed compared to the pre-Covid-19 period. 

Thanks to its extensive scope, the Data Navigator further demonstrates the worrying impact of Covid-19 across all the elements of cancer control and care throughout Europe, highlighting the need to urgently address the cancer backlog and build back better, more resilient cancer systems. 

Professor Mark Lawler, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s, Professor of Digital Health, Chair In Translational Cancer Genomics, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Special Network on the Impact of Covid-19 on Cancer, and Co-Lead in the development of the Data Navigator, said:

“While Covid-19 exposed significant gaps in our healthcare systems, the overall impacts of Covid-19 on cancer care delivery across European countries is as yet unknown. Therefore, we developed a user-friendly data tool that will help to assess challenges and inequalities in cancer care delivery that European countries experienced during the pandemic.

“The disastrous impact of Covid-19 on cancer patients and cancer services cannot be ignored. Cancer patients cannot wait, and we must ensure that Covid-19 does not continue to undermine the fight against cancer.

“It is Time to Act – and we believe our Data Navigator will help inform policy decisions by governments to address the huge cancer backlog, in order to build back better and smarter for European citizens.”  

Dr Mirjam Crul, Oncology Pharmacist, Responsible for Aseptic Compounding at the Amsterdam University Medical Center and Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Special Network on the Impact of Covid-19 on Cancer, said:

“The ‘Time to Act’ Data Navigator is an important milestone in the battle against cancer, as it contains a wide array of indicators including missed diagnoses and delayed treatments among others.

“This allows us to address significant knowledge gaps about the impact of Covid-19 on cancer care and cancer patients.

“It is a living tool and we encourage cancer organisations and public health stakeholders across Europe to contribute to its development by submitting new data.” 

Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation, added:

“The Data Navigator, to be launched during the European Cancer Summit, will play a key role in providing crucial information on the impact of Covid-19 on cancer care.

“This must prompt urgent policy measures at the European and country level in addressing the cancer backlog, restoring confidence in cancer services, and building more resilient healthcare systems.”  

Addressing the cancer care backlog across Europe requires the collaboration of the entire cancer community. Cancer knows no borders, neither should we. It is ‘Time to Act’ together to ensure improved cancer patient outcomes and build more resilient healthcare systems. 

To support health-related research projects at Queen’s - including cancer - visit the Development and Alumni Relations Office website or contact Teresa Sloan, Head of Health Fundraising.

Media enquiries to Queen’s University Belfast Communications Officer.

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