Kankercentrum Nederland: by corona 5000 diagnoses less this spring

Because a lot of regular care was not available or shunned this spring due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are 5000 fewer cancer diagnoses than in the previous ten years. For some of the patients concerned, that can make a big difference: the difference between metastasized and non metastasized, between a heavy treatment and a lighter one. That is what the Integraal Kankercentrum Nederland (IKNL), a research and advice centre for cancer, says.

It is not clear how often delayed cancer diagnosis causes additional damage to the patient. “We can only analyze this properly in the long term,” says Otto Visser, director of registrations at IKNL. “We are already investigating the consequences for breast cancer in more detail. On the basis of that information we can learn what we can best do in the field of diagnostics in the future.”

The risk of a more unfavourable disease progression is greatest with the most aggressive cancer forms. For example, melanomas, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, and sarcomas, aggressive tumours in bones or soft tissue such as muscles and nerve tissue. But acute lymph node cancer and acute leukaemia can also make all the difference if a diagnosis is delayed.

Pech

“Lung cancer and pancreatic cancer are often discovered at such a late stage that successful treatment is often no longer possible”, says Visser.

For many other cancers it’s different. Bowel cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer are in the vast majority of cases detected early.

“Especially if people participate in the existing population surveys for colorectal and breast cancer,” says Visser. “But in young women breast cancer can be very aggressive and people can also be very unlucky and suffer adverse effects from a delayed diagnosis.”

The 38-year-old Charlotte van Wijk had a melanoma during the pregnancy of her first daughter in 2012. It was removed in time and during a second operation some skin was cut away around the melanoma so as not to leave any cancer cells behind.

In March of this year, Charlotte was worried about the birthmark. Now the doctor decided to refer her to a plastic surgeon. He could immediately look at the wild meat on the scar of her old melanoma. She had been suffering from that for years.

Lockdown

“Three days later the land was locked up,” Charlotte says. “I couldn’t go to the surgeon. After a week and a half I did get a telephone consultation. The surgeon also looked at the photos my GP had taken.” That doctor didn’t see anything special about the birthmark either.

At the beginning of May, she was finally able to see a plastic surgeon in person. “He cut away the birthmark immediately,” she says. “I was really in the squeaky bag, afraid it was cancer again.” Shortly afterwards she had an appointment for the results

“Normally I would bring someone to such a conversation that might be a bad news conversation, but because of corona it was not allowed. So I sat there on my own and was told that it was another melanoma and that it was deeper than in 2012. I was really upset.”

Only

On June 4th skin was removed around the scar of the melanoma so that no cancer cells were left behind. “At the same time, a lymph node was cut away to check for metastases. Luckily, I didn’t have one.”