New project to explore impact of the pandemic on cancer care and survival in Ireland

A new project funded by the Irish Cancer Society will help to shed light on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival in Ireland.

Through the course of the two-year project, researchers Professor Kathleen Bennett and Dr Maeve Mullooly from the Epidemiology & Modelling Research Group at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences will explore the effect of pandemic-related disruptions to cancer services and patient outcomes.

The project will be carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the National Cancer Registry in Ireland (NCRI) and supported by the National Cancer Control Programme and Faculty of Pathology, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) and others.

The much-needed new project comes against a backdrop of disruption to healthcare services over much of the past two years due to COVID-19, and will look to build on findings from recent reports from the NCRI and RCPI indicating that around 10-14% of cancer diagnoses expected in 2020 were not diagnosed.

Commenting on the project, Prof Kathleen Bennett, RCSI said: “Many routine cancer-related services were reduced or paused during the pandemic including screening, surgery, radiology and pathology services, and the short to long-term impact of these reduced services across the cancer spectrum is not yet clear.

“Through our project, supported by the Irish Cancer Society and in collaboration with the NCRI and others, we will examine data on the number of cancers diagnosed, as well as clinical characteristics of cancers before and during the pandemic to discover how the pandemic has impacted on new cases of cancer, clinical management of cancer, and projected longer term consequences.”

Dr Maeve Mullooly, RCSI added: “We also want to build a picture of the long-term impacts of the pandemic on cancer outcomes, including survival. Information on the short, medium and long-term impacts on cancer care will help identify requirements and resources needed for future unmet needs of cancer patients. This information will also provide knowledge to help identify future services needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on cancer management.”