COVID-19 Has Pushed Back Lung Cancer Progress, Says Report

Report highlights how lung cancer progress in diagnosis has been pushed back, with further impact on treatment likely as the pandemic continues.

A new report highlights how, in just 12 months of the pandemic, lung cancer progress in diagnosis has been pushed back, with further impact on treatment likely the longer the pandemic continues.

Lung cancer is the largest cause of cancer deaths around the world, with over one million deaths per year. Exacerbating this impact, over 40% of countries report a complete or partial disruption to lung cancer services due to the pandemic.

The report, Learning Lessons from Across Europe – Prioritising Lung Cancer after COVID-19, was developed by the World Economic Forum and the Lung Ambition Alliance, in collaboration with AstraZeneca. The Lung Ambition Alliance is a partnership with the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC), AstraZeneca and Guardant Health.

Among the short-term recommendations the report makes are:

  • Symptom identification: The public and healthcare professionals need better information about how to spot the differences between COVID-19 and lung cancer so that people know which services to access
  • Reassurance on safety: Patients need reassuring that services are safe for them to access and so there needs to be investment in COVID-19-free clinical spaces, with appropriate communication about how services are being kept safe
  • Public awareness: There needs to be public health information campaigns about lung cancer to raise the public’s awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, and encourage them to seek help if they are concerned about their health

In the longer term:

  • Screening and diagnosis: There needs to be investment in strategies to identify lung cancer patients more proactively, such as targeted screening programmes for those people at risk
  • Robust data: Real time data collection and analysis is needed at a national and local level to identify and address the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer patients
  • Primary care capacity: There needs to be investment in capacity at a primary care level to ensure all patients with suspected lung cancer can be swiftly referred to specialist care.

David Baldwin, Chair, UK Clinical Expert Group for Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma and Report Taskforce member says, “We clinicians are seeing similar late presentations of lung cancer to those that were the norm 20 years ago. With disruptions at an unprecedented level, lung cancer patients simply can’t afford to have the clock wound back to where things were. We must redouble our efforts to diagnose patients early, by urgently restoring awareness and early diagnosis campaigns, rapid diagnostic and treatment pathways and approval of national lung cancer screening programs.”

The full report is available here.