Over 1,000 cancers ‘missed’ in Portugal due to pandemic

Over 1,000 cancers will have been missed in Portugal as a result of the health service’s ‘focus’ on Covid-19.

Yet another stark warning about the collateral damage of the pandemic came today from the Portuguese League Against Cancer which has appealed for authorities to change their approach, and quickly.

“The fight against cancer should be a continuous priority which cannot be overlooked in the face of the pandemic of Covid-19 ”, it says in a statement.

If necessary, the SNS state health service should call in the help of private and social sectors – but the backlog of patients waiting for consultations and programmed treatments must be cleared.

In numbers, we’re talking of over 1,000 cancers that will almost certainly have been overlooked due to the halt in screenings that took place during the State of Emergency.

Says the statement, estimates are that 240 women could be unaware now that they have breast cancer, while at least 1,000 other cancers will have gone undetected (namely colorectal and cervical).

Referrals too of patients that have tested positive for cancer and need treatment “have been failing due to the massive reduction in face-to-face consultations”, warns the league.

This is simply the latest warning of the devastating flip-side of authorities’ approach to the pandemic.

The official ‘mantra’ since March, explaining lockdown and other measures, has been “we need to save lives”. But the reality has been the opposite. Lives are being lost in numbers that have not been seen for years (click here) – and it’s because the virus is conditioning the very purpose of the country’s State health system.

Says the league’s president Vítor Rodrigues, the uptake of care over the summer has “managed to return some normality in terms of treatment in the last few months” but hospitals are “not able to recover the work that has been lost”.

“If measure are not taken urgently, we will continue to have delays in diagnoses and cancer treatments with the inevitable negative impact on rates of survival and mortality, in the medium term”.

Bottom line: “the combat of Covid-19 cannot prejudice all other forms of healthcare”, he said.

Tragically however this is exactly what seems to be happening.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com