Thousands of cancer cases are at risk of being missed

– We have fewer diagnosed cancer cases during the six months that the corona pandemic has ravaged Sweden, says Johan Ahlgren, operations manager at the Uppsala Örebro Regional Cancer Center.

It is every eighth cancer case for the period March to August this year that is judged to be undetected as a result of the pandemic, according to the report. This corresponds to just over 3,500 cancer cases, and may therefore be due to, among other things, canceled screening and the fact that some patients withdraw to seek care.

What consequences can this have?

– Most people know that an early cancer diagnosis has a greater chance of leading to curative treatment, so it is clear that in the long run it can lead to a worse prognosis for groups of patients. In the long run, individuals can have their lives shortened.

The report is based on a comparison with the number of cancer diagnoses for the same period last year.

The analysis of which cancers show the largest decline is not yet complete. But it can be seen that cancers that are often detected via, for example, screening before the cancer gives symptoms, such as breast cancer, are particularly affected, says Johan Ahlgren. But lung cancer diagnoses have also decreased during the pandemic.

– It is quite natural, because one of the most common symptoms is cough. If you call a health center and say that I have been coughing for a couple of weeks, you will be told that there is so much virus going on, not least corona, and that you may have to wait a bit. This means that it may have specifically targeted the lung cancer group.

Ekot has reviewed several reports to the Swedish Health and Care Inspectorate concerning cancer care and cancer diagnostics during the pandemic.

Among the cases is, for example, a patient who reports that he sought care for, among other things, cough, hoarseness and visible blood vessels in the chest. But according to the report, it was handled first as possible colds and then possible covid-19. It must therefore have taken more than a month before the patient was examined. Then a large tumor must have been found in the left lung.

At the same time, Johan Ahlgren believes that healthcare has a good ability to capture and treat the as yet undiscovered cancer cases. He points out that cancer care has been a priority during the pandemic, and that in future it is important to be able to keep the screening activities going as well. There is also a call to the individual:

– For people who are called for screening, take advantage of that opportunity. Because if you can get an early diagnosis, it is always much better, says Johan Ahlgren, operations manager at the Regional Cancer Center Uppsala Örebro.

The laboratories whose analyzes are included in the report represent just over half of Sweden’s population. According to the cancer center, the data is considered secure, even though sparsely populated areas are underrepresented in the report.