“These are real people with loved ones, for whom a delayed cancer diagnosis is not a statistic, it’s a whole world collapsing.”
That’s according to Averil Power, Chief Executive of the Irish Cancer Society, in a submission to the Oireachtas Health Committee this week.
According to Power, one in ten expected cancers were not diagnosed in 2020 alone, amounting to around 2,600 people in “just one year of the pandemic.”
“Patients are not being given the best chance of surviving cancer due to long wait times and overcrowding in the health system,” she said, adding that “The earlier cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat.”
“The five-year survival for breast cancer for example is 94% at stage one and only 19% at stage four,” she said.
Power also explained that even those cancer sufferers whose diagnoses were caught at a late stage in the pandemic are now having to “run the gauntlet” against hospital overcrowding to be seen.
“There is also concern that others may be put off seeking medical assistance due to the chaos,” she added, adding that the Irish Cancer Society is concerned Ireland may be “going backwards” on cancer care.
According to the Irish Cancer Society’s Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrough, “three in ten people have put off a hospital appointment or GP appointment because they are hearing they shouldn’t attend unless it’s urgent.”
“It is having a chill effect on behaviour,” she said.
“People might try and manage their symptoms at home. The message has to go out that people should go and seek medical advice. The blame should not be on patients for trying to access medical care.”
She added that there needs to be an “unwavering focus on getting people into cancer care early.”