What if you suffer from cancer?
August 10, 2020
Peter Kapitein

I have cancer for 15 years now and I’m still living a happy and healthy life in harmony with it. The fact I am still alive is the result of a significant number of timely interventions during those 15 years.

The present Corona crisis has had a very dangerous side effect for us cancer patients. For many of us our diagnosis or urgent treatments have been delayed by several months and there is now a backlog that will take many more months to be reduced.

At several times during my past 15 years such a delay would have killed me. I am in remission now, so I am lucky, but tens of thousands of new cancer patients in the Netherlands alone still are waiting for their first interview with their specialist, and tens of thousands of urgent operations and treatments have been postponed. For many of those tens of thousands the clock has already ticked away a portion of their chances of survival.

In 2016, a study appeared in The Lancet, calculating that the previous economic crisis of 2008 caused 260,000 additional cancer deaths (160,000 in Europe).

This Corona crisis will cost more cancer deaths for sure.

Gupta strategists published a report on May 21 this year; ‘COVID goes Cuckoo’ with painful figures of the measures for regular care in the Netherlands: hospital care for COVID patients has saved an estimated 13,000 to 21,000 healthy life years (QALYs) in the Netherlands (in March and April). However, at the same time there was an unacceptable loss in the REGULAR care. The combination of hospitals focussing on COVID, and the of the extreme reduction of mobility and patient-contact due to Lockdown caused unprecedented, disproportionate damage to REGULAR care.

Discontinuation of regular care resulted in an estimated loss of 100,000 to 400,000 healthy life years. This means that the loss in regular care is approximately ten times as high as both the number of healthy life years gained with COVID care and the number of healthy life years lost through COVID. And even then we are far from complete. The disruption of agriculture and of market-chains between producers and consumers by lockdowns will cause tragic collateral deaths (due to loss of income and sheer hunger), in many countries.

Every day 110 people die from cancer in the Netherlands. 22,000 people worldwide. Annually 8,000,000 people globally … Cancer deaths can be prevented in more than 50% of the cases. Many corona deaths could be similarly prevented with a healthy lifestyle based on simple measures of responsibility and hygiene. The vaccine everyone is hoping for will take care of the rest.

New hope

The University of Oxford study was published on 23 June which describes that dexamethasone leads to a significant reduction in the number of deaths from Corona and a decrease in patients that need the IC

On July 21, the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (part of the British Medical Journal) published a study showing that prednisone also saved lives (65% fewer deaths from the cytokine storm, the main cause of death) and 70% fewer people need the IC. In addition, the recovery will take a week shorter.

Suddenly the chance of dying from COVID is reduced by a large factor!

As a cancer patient, I think that the panic and sort of cramp that we are still in, are by now unjustified. We should be happy that there is now a lifesaving solution for a majority of people with serious cases of COVID, a solution that wasn’t available during the first wave. And we should implement it.

And yes; people will still die from corona. That is a characteristic of a virus; people die from it. But the sting has been taken out of corona. It then becomes more of a “normal” virus with a normal number of deaths. Thanks to good science and great nurses and doctors who help patients at the risk of their own lives. Now government and politics have to get to work and have the guts to break out of the catatonic state we have put ourselves into.

Peter Kapitein
CEO and Patient Advocate Inspire2Live