At present, Covid-19 has taken the lives of over 500 thousand people worldwide, leaving families devastated. The number of cases, deaths and recoveries in each country is a heavy point of focus for many. However, we mustn’t forget that although our lives have temporarily been on hold, diseases such as cancer stop for no one.
Last night I watched a Panorama documentary on the BBC, discussing the effect of the virus on those with cancer, and how an additional 35,000 people could die of the disease. A very important part of cancer diagnosis is catching and treating it early, but many people have been discouraged from going to the doctors due to the virus and so referrals have decreased and screening has been put on hold – allowing any potential cancer to spread further before being found, which in turn can reduce chances of survival.
The documentary also discussed how radiotherapy machines hadn’t been used for a large amount of time during the pandemic, but we now know that their use is perfectly safe and so people have been missing out on potentially life saving treatment.
During the documentary, it was pointed out that a balance was attempted to be made between the risk of catching the virus and the risk of patients’ cancer worsening. No medical professional would ever want to stop or reduce life saving treatment, the four pillars of medical ethics ensure this. When watching this documentary, I recognised that this situation is far from simple, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy weaken immune systems, meaning that those with cancer would struggle to fight the virus if they contracted it. At the same time, stopping chemotherapy can increase the spread of cancer within the patient to a point where treatment may no longer be a viable option, or their chances of recovery or survival are reduced. It feels like a lose-lose situation, and the pressure on the medical professionals to make the right decisions must be immense. As someone who wants to become a doctor, it can really test your want to study medicine, as you realise that you could be the next person to have to make these decisions.
This documentary definitely brought a tear to my eye, seeing the indirect effect of the virus made me realise just how great it’s effect has been. Although cancer can be diagnosed late at any time, there are people who are going to lose their lives, children who are going to lose their parents, parents who are going to lose their children, because of a late diagnosis that was caused by Covid-19.