While the world is still struggling to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, there might be something more dreadful coming our way as a consequence of the preventive measures implemented by the governments across the world. As per a new study, the end of the virus pandemic eventually gives rise to a cancer epidemic.

According to The Mirror, the warning comes after new research found out that the actions to curb the virus spread are "significantly" impacting the treatment and care of cancer patients. Ever since the pandemic began, governments were forced to implement measures like social distancing and lockdown. The healthcare system is compelled to shift their focus entirely to the COVID-19 patients and efforts to create an anti-viral as soon as possible. All of this and more has clearly impacted all aspects of life including delay in treatments of cancer patients and urgent medical referrals.

A group of researchers from Queen's University Belfast, the University of Split, Croatia, and King's College London found out that the postponement in surgeries and chemotherapies of the cancer patients "precipitate a future cancer epidemic." The research published in the European Journal of Cancer notes that there are more than 3.7 million new cancer cases in Europe each year and over 1.9 million cancer-related deaths.

"We are already seeing the indirect effects of the COVID-19 crisis on cancer care," Queen's University's Professor Mark Lawler said.

He goes on to explain how the cancer epidemic could become an "unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Urgent referral numbers are dropping, endoscopies and other surgical procedures are being postponed and many cancer specialists are being redirected to COVID-19 specific care," Lawler said. "We must encourage cancer patients or citizens who are worried that they may have cancer symptoms, to continue to access health systems and we must ensure that those health systems are fit for purpose to support them. Cancer must be firmly in our cross wires so that we avoid adding the lost lives of cancer patients to the Covid-19 death toll," he added.

Another author of the study pointed out that shift in the focus towards COVID-19 has resulted in neglect. While they might be suffering from symptoms of cancer, the fear of infection has made them hesitant in visiting health facilities and consulting doctors which in the normal scenario would have been an immediate step in cases of rectal or bladder bleeding, a lump in breast, or other signs of cancer.

"We are starting to see people who may be at risk of developing cancer fearing a COVID-19 diagnosis more than a cancer diagnosis," Eduard Vrdoljak, of the University of Split suggests.

Meanwhile, Richard Sullivan from King's College London feels that the news cycles and social media focusing on COVID-19 have altered our "emotional and social infrastructure."

NHS worker mural
A mural in central London shows an NHS worker. Photo: AFP / Tolga AKMEN

Speaking with Belfast Telegraph, Lawler suggests that there is an urgent need to "find a balance in fighting the pandemic, but we need to remember that cancer is a very common disease."