An association of leading Asian oncologists in partnership with AstraZeneca, recently conducted the New Normal, Same Cancer campaign, to empower patients to access cancer services without delay.
Various experts from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore are involved in the campaign.The campaign encourages people diagnosed with cancer to resume treatment that may have been paused, and those people with possible cancer signs and symptoms or who have missed routine checks, to consult a doctor.
Timely diagnosis and treatment become critical factors to determine the success of cancer treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to healthcare systems across Asia, including cancer services. As countries enter a new normal, it is highly important that the patients access right services without delay to receive adequate treatment.
Based on a survey of 480 oncosurgeons across India, it was estimated that 192,000 patients were likely to have delays in the timely diagnosis of cancer.The free annual pap smear screening appointments fell by 75%.
In the Philippines, a survey found that fear and anxiety of cancer patients brought about by worries of acquiring the virus affected the health-seeking behaviour of those still about to be diagnosed. There was a 9% drop in first visit consultations and 30% drop in follow up consultations at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) between February and March 2020, although these numbers have recovered.
Meanwhile, many hospitals have adapted to strategies that can help minimise the chances of disease transmission including reduced hospital stays. Hospitals such as Tata Memorial Centre in India is avoiding complex surgeries that require multiple blood transfusions and prolonged stays in the intensive care unit.
The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) has adapted treatment plans for some patients and is arranging same day diagnostic imaging and biopsy to those new referrals who are assessed to have a high likelihood of cancer, to reduce the number of clinic appointments for patients.
“By coming together with experts in cancer from healthcare, policy and patient groups to share this message, we hope to encourage patients to prioritise their cancer treatment and follow up appointments, and ultimately improve outcomes for cancer patients throughout Asia”, said Dr Ullas Batra, Senior Consultant and Chief Thoracic Medical Oncologist, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, New Delhi, India