A woman on a sofa is sitting with her hands clasped. A doctor with a clipboard is talking to her.

Irish Cancer Society concerned about decline in cancer diagnosis during COVID-19

HSE figures show GP referrals of suspected cancers have dropped by over 50%

The Irish Cancer Society is concerned about a drop in suspected cancer cases being referred for investigation by GPs during Covid-19. New figures from the HSE show that the number of suspected cancer cases referred by them through the Healthlink e-referral system has dropped by over 50%.

E-referrals of suspected lung cancers dropped 61%, breast cancers by 55%, prostate by 50% and pigmented skin lesions by 72.3%.

CEO Averil Power said, “Ordinarily, an average of 800 people are diagnosed with cancer each week in Ireland, usually after presenting to their GP with cancer symptoms. GPs have expressed concern about less patients presenting to them within cancer symptoms during the current crisis. Now these figures highlight the extent of the problem and the risk of lives being lost due to late cancer diagnoses during COVID-19.

““When it comes to cancer, early detection is key and can be the difference between life or death in some cases. That’s why it’s so important people contact their GP immediately if they notice potential cancer symptoms like a lump, bleeding, weight loss or fatigue. Despite COVID-19 we have been assured that GPs are there for anyone who needs them and urgent cancer services are continuing to operate. Safeguards are also in place to ensure care can be provided safely.

“As the Taoiseach said yesterday in the Dáil, cancer has not gone away, and he quoted one GP he had spoken to who said he had not encountered anyone in his practise with potential cancer symptoms in a month.

“Cancer will not wait for the coronavirus pandemic to pass and it is so important that anyone who needs medical attention seeks it,” she concluded.