The ‘Time To Act’ data navigator – A new landmark tool in the fight against the impact of COVID-19 on cancer

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The European Cancer Organisation is pleased to announce the launch of the ‘Time To Act’ Data Navigator – a novel interactive visualisation tool presenting data on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer across an initial set of 17 European countries.

COVID-19 has dramatically affected cancer control and care delivery across Europe. As identified by our Data Intelligence work, an estimated 100 million screening tests were not performed overall in Europe, as many as one million cancers may have gone undiagnosed, while up to half of all cancer patients were affected by treatment delays.

The burden of COVID-19 has also impacted healthcare workers’ wellbeing, with 40% of them feeling burned-out.

Designed as an interactive map of Europe, the Data Navigator gathers for the first time a large amount of data at the national and pan-national level on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer.

Based on the analysis of over 200 data sources, it visualises key data and country profiles on, for example, halted cancer screening programmes, missed cancer diagnoses, delayed cancer treatments, and the impact on healthcare workers’ mental health during the pandemic. It is also a living tool, to which anyone may submit new data to be considered for inclusion.

The ’Time To Act’ Data Navigator was launched on 18 November during the annual European Cancer Summit (17-18 November 2021), bringing together European policymakers and high-level public health experts, including EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge, European Medicines Agency (EMA)’s Executive Director Emer Cooke, leading Members of the European Parliament and National Health Ministers.

The specific session dedicated to the Data Navigator will include contributions from Romania’s Secretary of State for Health Andrei Baciu, European’s Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) Co-Chair Sara Cerdas MEP, and leading expert representatives from oncology, patient advocacy and industry. Key insights made available by the Data Navigator include:

– In Poland, the number of mammography tests performed in April-May 2020 fell by 94% as compared to 2019.

– In Spain, 38% of lung cancer cases were undiagnosed compared to the pre-COVID-19 period.

– In France, there has been an estimated 200 backlog days in chemotherapy services.

– In Romania, 77.5% patients had difficulties attending required medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

– In Italy, 71.7% of healthcare professionals working in breast cancer centres experienced mild to extremely severe stress levels during COVID-19 pandemic.

– In the UK, more than 650.000 cancer patients experienced disruption to their cancer treatment or care because of COVID-19.

Thanks to its extensive scope, the Data Navigator further demonstrates the extent of the consequences of COVID-19 across all the elements of cancer control and care throughout Europe, highlighting the need to urgently address the cancer backlog and build back better, more resilient cancer systems.

Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation, said: “Cancer patients cannot wait, and we must ensure that COVID-19 does not continue to jeopardise the fight against cancer. The Data Navigator, to be launched during the European Cancer Summit, will play a key role in providing crucial information on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care. This must prompt urgent policy measures at the European and country level in addressing the cancer backlog, restoring confidence in cancer services, and building more resilient healthcare systems.”

Professor Mark Lawler, Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Special Network on the Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer and Co-Lead in the development of the Data Navigator, said: “While COVID-19 exposed significant gaps in our healthcare systems, the overall impact of COVID-19 on cancer care delivery across Europe is as yet unknown. Therefore, we in the European Cancer Organisation developed a user-friendly data tool that will help to assess challenges and inequalities in cancer care delivery that European countries faced during the pandemic. The disastrous impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients and cancer services cannot be ignored. It is Time To Act, and we believe our Data Navigator will help inform policy decisions to address the huge cancer backlog in order to build back better and smarter for European citizens.”

“The ‘Time to Act’ Data Navigator is an important milestone in the battle against cancer as it contains a wide array of indicators including missed diagnoses and delayed treatments among others. This allows us to address significant knowledge gaps about the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care and patients. It is a living tool and we encourage cancer organisations and public health stakeholders across Europe to contribute to its development by submitting new data.” explained Dr Mirjam Crul, Oncology Pharmacist, Responsible for Aseptic Compounding at the Amsterdam University Medical Center, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Special Network on the Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer and Co-Lead in the development of the Data Navigator.

Addressing the cancer care backlog across Europe requires the collaboration of the entire cancer community. Cancer knows no borders, neither should we. It is ‘Time To Act’ together to ensure improved cancer patient outcomes and build more resilient healthcare systems.

Source: European Cancer Organisation


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