European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that 100 million cancer screening tests weren’t carried out due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on health services, delaying diagnoses and referrals for treatment across the continent.
“This means that an estimated one million cases could right now be undiagnosed in Europe,” the European Commission chief claimed.
Von der Leyen has announced the EU will launch a cancer inequality registry to address differing death rates across the bloc, as part of action to reduce the growing impact of the disease.
“It will identify trends, disparities and inequalities between member states and regions so that we can better target our support,” von der Leyen declared, as officials predict cancer fatalities could rise up to a third by 2040.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified cancer as one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the European region, accounting for more than 20% of all deaths. In 2020, 2.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer across the EU, while 1.3 million died from the disease.
Speaking ahead of World Cancer Day, WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge claimed cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment “suffered in an unprecedented way as health services have struggled to respond to COVID-19.”
Citing official data across the European region from the past two years, Kluge highlighted how the diagnosis of invasive tumors fell by 44% in Belgium, colorectal screenings declined by 46% in Italy, and cancer diagnoses were 34% lower than expected in Spain.
To mark World Cancer Day, the WHO has committed to implementing cost-effective and evidence-based policies that will allow them to fast track the elimination of cancer as a life-threatening illness in Europe and Asia.