According to preliminary preliminary data from the Cancer Registry, 1,200 fewer new cancers were diagnosed in 2020 than in the previous year, although the number of cancers is projected to increase all the time. This fall, the care debt caused by the corona pandemic has been covered.
The Finnish Cancer Registry maintains statistics on the number of new cancers. According to preliminary data from the autumn, about 1,200 new cases were not detected last year. Director of Statistics for the Cancer Registry Janne Pitkäniemi considers the situation in 2020 to be exceptional and worrying.
– It is worrying in the sense that we expect the number of new cancers to increase by 1-2% a year due to the aging of the population. We have to remember that this is preliminary information and the figure will be specified when we get the official preliminary statistics at the beginning of November 2021, Pitkäniemi emphasizes.
Many hospital districts have diagnosed more new cases of cancer than normal this fall. Industry Director of the HUS Cancer Center Johanna Mattsonin according to, the number of referrals leading to first visits has risen as much as 19 percent this year from last year’s low. Compared to normal time, for example in 2019, the number of shipments has increased by 10 percent.
– In the spring of 2020, there was a clear decrease in referrals and there was also a clear decrease in cancer samples in the spring of 2020. The situation started to improve already in the autumn of 2020, but now the number of patients has clearly increased in 2021 and it seems that the potential care debt has been covered, Mattson estimates.
The number of new patients has increased in the autumn compared to the corresponding period in 2019 and the growth is expected to continue for the rest of the year. By the end of August, for example, there have been three percent more new patients at the HUS Cancer Center than in 2019. The growth is significant, as more than 30,000 cancers are diagnosed annually throughout the country.
The situation is similar in other hospital districts. For example, at Tampere University Hospital and Oulu University Hospital, the number of referrals has increased during the autumn, and meeting the deadlines for urgent care has required employees to make additional work, among other things.
– We are a large hospital and a large unit. We are prepared for the fact that in the treatment of cancer, referrals do not always come in a steady stream, but we must also be prepared for peaks in demand. Some of the staff is willing to do additional work if necessary, says Mattson about the situation at HUS.
The effect of the corona cannot yet be accurately demonstrated
According to Mattson, even more new patients are expected this year. October-November have been the busiest months in previous years.
The number of referrals at Tampere University Hospital has also increased. The peak of Tampere is in June-July. Director of Cancer Care at Tampere University Hospital Maarit Bärlundin according to emergency surgery, anticancer therapy and radiotherapy have been able to be implemented in the area through special arrangements and staff stretching.
On the side of specialist care, no actual treatment queues have emerged in emergency cancer treatment. However, delays during the treatment path may have occurred for many different reasons. In the early stages of the corona epidemic, people have not sought treatment in the same way as before the corona and now again dare to seek treatment.
In hospitals across the country, there have been indications that patients entering treatment this year will have more advanced cancers. This view is shared by several cancer physicians doing clinical work. The situation may be different for different forms of cancer. However, more detailed research data on this are not yet available.
– Yes, the feeling is in that direction, but there is no data on this issue. More and more patients are found to have advanced disease and the proportion of patients in whom the patient is symptomatically admitted to the emergency department and where an advanced malignancy is found there, says the Director of Cancer and Hematology at Oulu University Hospital Hanne Kuitunen.
The impact of the corona epidemic on the figures cannot yet be fully assessed. According to Fiber, there has been an increase in the number of patients, but it is difficult to estimate the contribution of the coronary pandemic.
The Cancer Registry is also investigating the matter. Preliminary data on cancer statistics will be available in November 2021. However, according to Janne Pitkäniemi, Director of Statistics at the Cancer Registry, it is likely that the overall effects of the corona on mortality, for example, will not be seen for years to come.
– It takes time to have effects, if there are any. The question is to what extent the diagnosis or treatment deficit has been and whether it is reflected in mortality. Pitkäniemi will take another year or two to make reliable mortality estimates.
– If these diagnoses are delayed, we will see more widespread cancers and it may be that this will later be reflected in patient survival rates and mortality. If there is such an effect, then it requires a little longer monitoring.
According to Mattson, delays are also possible for individual patients outside of the Korona period. If a patient suspects a delay in starting treatment at some point in the treatment pathway, the matter should be clarified.
– These things can be evaluated afterwards, says Mattson.