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Substantial impact on lung and prostate cancer services and procedures due to COVID-19

A new national report by Cancer Australia shows for the first time, substantial reductions in procedures and services due to COVID-19, for two of Australia’s most commonly diagnosed cancers, lung and prostate cancers.

The Review of the impact of COVID-19 on medical services and procedures in Australia utilising MBS data: Lung and prostate cancers report also provides the first breakdown of monthly services by state and territory.

“The new report shows a notable reduction of 25-41% in services for both diagnostic and therapeutic services related to lung and prostate cancer during the first wave of the pandemic,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia.

“This is particularly concerning, as any potential delays in diagnoses and treatment in response to these reductions may lead to more advanced stages of cancer progression and poorer patient outcomes.

Lung cancer is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in Australia. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in Australia and second most common cause of cancer death in males.

“While surgical treatment procedures for lung cancer remained relatively unchanged between March and April 2020,

Prostate cancer PSA blood testing fell by 41% between March and April. Both MRI and prostate biopsy procedures decreased approximately 25% for the same time period. Services for MRI scans of the prostate of previously diagnosed prostate cancer decreased 25% between March and April.

“The monthly data for some services showed initial recovery in May, with many procedures showing further recovery in service numbers by June 2020.”

“A similar reduction in diagnostic procedures and surgeries observed nationally, was also seen in states and territories in Australia, with services recovering in June.

“We encourage people to be aware of any persistent changes to their body, and contact their doctor without delay if they notice anything unusual for them. Most symptoms are due to something less serious than cancer, but if it is cancer, the earlier it is found, the better,” said Professor Keefe.

A previous report recently released by Cancer Australia presented data on the impact of the pandemic in reducing services and procedures relating to skin, breast and colorectal cancers.

For more information about cancer and the  COVD-19 pandemic for people affected by cancer, health professionals and researchers, visit www.canceraustralia.gov.au