Covid-19 caused at least 5,000 cancer cases to go undiagnosed in Belgium
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Covid-19 caused at least 5,000 cancer cases to go undiagnosed in Belgium

Credit: Belga

At least 5,000 cases of cancer have reportedly passed under the radar since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, the Foundation Against Cancer reported on Friday.

The trend is now catching up, with 14% fewer diagnoses until mid-September compared to last year, compared to 44% for the month of April, during the first wave.

The absence of a diagnosis does not mean that there are fewer cases of cancer, but that the diagnosis will be made later and treatment will be started at a later stage of the disease.

The result is a risk of more aggressive treatment and a poorer prognosis, warned the Foundation’s medical and scientific director Didier Vander Steichel.

“The fear of catching the virus has led to the risk of not being detected and/or not receiving treatment, which, depending on the type of cancer, can lead to sometimes very serious consequences,” the organisation warned.

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The drop in diagnoses remains more significant (18%) for those over 80 years of age, while it is around 12% for those aged 65 to 79 and around 16% for those aged 50 to 64.

The difference is smaller for the under-50 age groups, with a decrease of 9% for the 35-49 age group and of 5% for the 20-34 age group.

The impact is greatest for skin cancer, with a decrease of more than 20% in diagnoses, followed by bladder and kidney cancer. For head and neck cancer it is 19% and for prostate cancer it is 15%.

The decrease is less pronounced for other more aggressive forms of cancer, such as lung cancer (10%), pancreatic cancer (9%) and oesophageal cancer (9%).

Breast cancer shows a smaller decrease, of 14% for all ages and 20% for the target population for screening (50-69 years).

In 2018, 70.468 cases of cancer were diagnosed in Belgium, according to the Foundation against Cancer.

The Brussels Times