The Slovenia Times

Second and third Covid waves with less impact on cancer diagnoses


Ljubljana - After a drop of 30% in the number of newly diagnosed cancers in the first wave of the Covid epidemic in the spring of 2020, the second and third waves had a smaller impact on these trends, the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology told the STA, noting that the shortfall in the diagnoses had not been made up by the end of last year.

As it identified serious disruptions that threaten the stability of the healthcare system this week, the government also highlighted the 30% drop in the number of newly diagnosed cancers, noting the decline had been a consequence of the epidemic.

The 30% drop was recorded in April 2020 by the two largest cancer treatment centres in the country, the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology and the UKC Maribor hospital, the former told the STA.

Since then, the situation has improved to a certain degree. During the second and third waves, which started in the autumn of 2020 and spring of 2021, respectively, around 10% fewer new cancer diagnoses were detected on average.

The largest shortfalls have been seen in diagnoses of skin and blood cancers and prostate cancer. In the second half of 2021, the number of new diagnoses was comparable to the same period in the pre-Covid year 2019, but the shortfall from previous Covid waves had not been made up by the end of last year.

Compared to 2019, the shortfall in cancer diagnoses was 5.5% in 2020 and 2.7% in 2021. It should be taken into consideration that a 3% increase in new diagnoses is expected each year, according to epidemiological trends.

Cancer screening programmes were suspended for two months in the spring of 2020, at the beginning of the epidemic, but have been running continuously ever since they were relaunched at the end of May 2020.

By the end of 2020, all three programmes in the country had successfully made up most of the planned screenings that had to be postponed due to the suspension, so the number of screenings and cancers detected at the end of 2020 was already at pre-Covid levels.

"The impact on long-term cancer indicators, such as patient survival or stage at diagnosis, can only be realistically assessed in the longer term, when it will also become clear how quickly we will be able to catch up at all levels of the system, especially in terms of the first wave of the epidemic," the institute said.


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