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Global survey reveals Covid’s heavy toll on liver cancer care

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A global survey assessing the impact of Covid-19 on liver cancer has revealed delays in screening, diagnosis and treatment of the disease, with experts issuing stark warnings on liver cancer survival rates.

Thailand has among the highest incidence of liver cancer in the world, attributed to parasites in the popular raw-fish dish of koi pla.

The “Liver Cancer Outcomes in Covid-19 (CERO-19) Survey” led by the Liver Clinic at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, CIBEREH, and the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan included 76 high-volume cancer treatment centres which participated during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, finding that 87 per cent of centres modified clinical practice for liver cancer patients. These centres spanned Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.

Globally, around 800,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer every year, accounting for 700,000 deaths.

The findings, presented on Thursday at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)'s Digital Liver Cancer Summit 2021, revealed a catalogue of interruptions to diagnosis and care. A total of 40.8 per cent of centres said they had changed diagnostic procedures, 80.9 per cent had altered screening programmes, and 39.5 per cent had modified imaging studies.

“The modifications in liver cancer management due to this crisis raise the possibility of more patients being diagnosed with a later stage of cancer," said Dr Sergio Muñoz-Martínez, lead study author.

Previous studies have shown that poorer outcomes are associated with waiting or delaying treatment by two months.

Published : February 05, 2021

By : The Nation