In a move marking the World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) on Thursday launched an initiative aimed at addressing severe disruptions to cancer services amid the pandemic.
"Today we are launching a pan-European cancer initiative to unite all towards better cancer control and prevention and to enable policy-makers to make the right decisions to address cancer effectively," said Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in a statement.
According to the WHO, cancer services have been disrupted across the entire WHO European Region by travel restrictions and the enormous strain on health systems fighting COVID-19.
The initiative encompasses five key elements: prevention, early detection, access for all to diagnosis and treatment, palliative care, and a focus on data.
"These are cost-effective, evidence-based policies and measures accompanied by technical guidance and tools, aligned with WHO expertise and resources to achieve real impact at country level," said Kluge.
Further emphasizing the importance of the new initiative, the regional director cited statistics to illustrate the perilous situation the region was in.
"The numbers speak for themselves. In 2020, 4.8 million Europeans were diagnosed with cancer. That's more than 13,000 people every day, 546 every hour, 9 every minute," he said. "In a normal year, cancer kills close to 2.2 million people in the Region: a far-too-heavy toll when we know that these deaths could have been prevented."
The new initiative also comes in the wake of delays in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in 2020, which gave rise to a partial or complete disruption of medical services in one out of three countries throughout the European Region, according to the Regional Director.
"The impact of COVID-19 on cancer in Europe is complex, and has been referred to by some as a deadly interplay," said Kluge.