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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 30-31

Advances in community oncology in 2020: COVID-19 and beyond

Department of Community Medicine, K.S. Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte (Deemed to be University), Nithyananda Nagar, Deralakatte, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission17-Dec-2020
Date of Decision18-Dec-2020
Date of Acceptance06-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication24-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Ankeeta Menona Jacob
Department of Community Medicine, K.S. Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte (Deemed to be University), Nithyananda Nagar, Deralakatte, Mangalore, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_1362_20

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How to cite this article:
Jacob AM. Advances in community oncology in 2020: COVID-19 and beyond. Indian J Cancer 2021;58:30-1

How to cite this URL:
Jacob AM. Advances in community oncology in 2020: COVID-19 and beyond. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 12];58:30-1. Available from:

The year 2020 has been immensely challenging, with the pandemic of COVID-19 disrupting cancer care globally and in India. This article highlights some of the cancer care-related published literature in public health oncology in 2020. The National Cancer Registry Programme, in the latest report, August 2020, has investigated the development of cancers (2012–2016) through 58 hospitals and cancer registries. The summary of the report reviews the trend in cancers over 5 years (2012–2016).[1]

The highest rate for cancer – gender-wise per 100,000 of the population was in Aizawl district, where it was 269.4 men per 100,000 population. The highest rate for cancer among women was 219.8 per 100,000 population in Papumpare district. The population-based cancer registry in Delhi had recorded the highest rate for childhood cancers for both boys and girls in the country aged between 0 and 14 years.[1]

The North East state registries of the country showed a higher prevalence of cancer of the respiratory tract and the upper part of the digestive tract and other parts of the digestive system tract like liver, gallbladder when compared to the other parts of India. However, Chennai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, and the district of Hyderabad showed the highest incidence of breast cancer. The highest mortality rate was recorded in Aizawl district for men (152.7 per million) and women (89.5 per million). The study had estimated the cancer burden to increase to 1.57 million by 2025 in India from the current 1.39 million in 2020.[1]

The unprecedented pandemic COVID-19 and its lockdown worldwide has significantly impacted cancer patients' care and treatment.[2] The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed the treatment services as there was a dire need to redeploy healthcare personnel involved in cancer care for COVID-19 pandemic-related health system requirements.[3] A global modeling study has estimated that 59.7% of cancer-related surgeries were postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic and may have contributed to the clinical upstaging of many cancers that were treatable through surgical treatment.[3]

Fear of getting infected by COVID-19 due to weakened immunity in such patients prevented many of them from seeking help. This fear was not unwarranted. Many studies have shown a 3.5 times higher risk rate of acquiring COVID-19 in such conditions, and the recorded fatality rate was 5.6%. The fatality among cancer patients was significantly higher compared to other coexisting likely death causing conditions. The other common reason for decreased cancer care during lockdown was the lack of access to the healthcare facility and personnel due to restrictions in travel to hospitals for treatment.[4] Cancer screening also took a back seat, with nongovernmental organizations having to redirect funds for cancer screening to control the COVID-19 pandemic.[5]

Given this background of the increasing trend in cancer, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, health policy formulation is the need of the hour.[4] With the rapidly evolving status of COVID-19, there is a need to prioritize cancer care with a particular focus on the cause, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases related to blood cancers, which may make patients more vulnerable to severe outcomes of COVID-19 infection.

The priorities should be based on the current status, i.e., the severity of the disease and the condition (life threatening or relatively stable). Also, factors to consider are infrastructure, human resource preparedness of the health systems, and ease to access cancer patients' healthcare, especially for those with diseases related to blood cancers. In light of this, a registry for the COVID-19 patients affected with diseases related to blood cancers will be set up called “COVID Haematological Registry of India” at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Research, Chandigarh, India. This registry will work with other cancer registries in India to collect and research patients with diseases related to blood cancers.[6]

The consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown on cancer screening, detection, and treatment are yet to emerge fully, and systems for fighting against the effects need to be in place.


This article was peer-reviewed by an external referee.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Report of National Cancer Registry Programme [Internet]. Bengaluru, India: ICMR-NCDIR; 2020 p. 282. Available from: [Last cited on 2020 Dec 15].  Back to cited text no. 1
Moraliyage H, Silva DD, Ranasinghe W, Adikari A, Alahakoon D, Prasad R, et al. Cancer in lockdown: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer. Oncologist [Internet] 2020. doi: 10.1002/onco. 13604. Available from: 13604. [Last cited on 2020 Dec 10].  Back to cited text no. 2
Sharma DC. Lockdown poses new challenges for cancer care in India. Lancet Oncol 2020;21:884.  Back to cited text no. 3
Jain A, Singh C, Dhawan R, Jindal N, Mohindra R, Lad D, et al. How to use a prioritised approach for treating hematological disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic in India? Indian J Hematol Blood Transfus 2020;36:605-15.  Back to cited text no. 4
Thirthahalli C, Shetty P. Impact of COVID-19 on cancer screening by Non-Government Organizations and the way forward. Indian J Cancer 2020;57:485-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Mishra N. Soon, pan-India Covid registry of cancer-hit at PGI [Internet]. Tribuneindia News Service, 2020. Available from: [Last cited on 2020 Dec 15].  Back to cited text no. 6


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