The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a dramatic impact on all areas of cancer control, including prevention and vaccination programmes, screening and early detection services, provision of all modalities of cancer treatment and care, including follow-up care for cancer survivors, and the conduct of cancer research and clinical trials.

To address the challenge the European Cancer Organization (ECO) launched a Special Network on the Impact of Covid-19 on Cancer, co-chaired by Board members Mirjam Crul and Mark Lawler.

This Special Commission brought together a wide range of stakeholders, including the European Cancer Organization’s Member Societies, and Patient Advisory Committee to help understand what disruption in cancer diagnosis and cancer COVID-19 has caused, and, using this understanding to develop recommendations on the most critical and pressing issues and a campaign to address these challenges in Europe.

This campaign, “Time To Act” campaign has been recognized with the prestigious Excellence in Communicating and Using Data Award. The campaign, developed by global communications agency BCWraised public awareness on the pandemic’s staggering disruption of cancer care and how it may have resulted in more than one million cancer cases being missed in Europe. The campaign’s overarching message to patients was; Don’t let Covid-19 stop you from tackling Cancer.

Multiple languages
To ensure this echoed across Europe, ECO translated campaign material into 30 languages and organised a main launch event as well as 12 national launch events in Poland, Italy, Spain, Romania, Malta, France, Croatia, Cyprus, Slovenia, Portugal, Slovakia, and Ireland. Each launch featured national Health Ministers and MEPs, all dedicated to alleviating the burden of Covid-19 on essential cancer care.

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Andreas Charalambous, ECO President

Today the Time To Act campaign continues to add new features to its Data Navigator, a visualisation tool displaying key data on the pandemic’s impact on cancer care within the European region, with a major upgrade scheduled for release after the summer, including for the first time, data intelligence specific to tumour types and from 30 European countries

“It is a great honour for Time To Act to be recognised in this way. The campaign conveys our rapid response to an ongoing healthcare emergency that has significantly impacted cancer care around the world. My gratitude goes to all of those who supported and keep supporting this initiative within the EU and beyond,” said Andreas Charalambous, MD, ECO President.

Professor Mark Lawler, co-chair of the Special Network on the Impact of Covid-19 on Cancer and a professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

“I am delighted that we won this prestigious European award. It recognizes how we deployed data intelligence and innovative communication to highlight the disastrous impact of Covid-19 on cancer patients and services,” added Professor Mark Lawler, co-chair of the Special Network on the Impact of Covid-19 on Cancer and a professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

“It also highlights the fact that unless we act quickly and decisively, the Covid-19 pandemic will undoubtedly trigger a future cancer epidemic,” Lawler said.

“Translated into 30 languages, unanimously supported by European cancer leaders and brought to life with inspirational graphics and video content, it has had unprecedented reach throughout Europe. Our message that we may have missed 1 million cancer diagnoses has resonated right across Europe, causing European and national leaders to heed our advice and look to act now,”  he added.

“With Time to Act we aim to spread awareness about the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on cancer care” concluded Mirjam Crul, MD Co-chair of the Special Network on the Impact of Covid-19 on Cancer and European Society of Oncology Pharmacy (ESOP) vice-president.

“With the help of many engaged politicians, patient advocacy groups and local cancer organizations, we were able to reach out to many [people],” she concluded.

The Time To Act campaign is available in 30 languages.

Featured image: Panel discussion at European Cancer Summit 2021 session “Time To Act: Covid-19 & Cancer.” Photo courtesy: © 2021 – 2022 European Cancer Organisation (ECO). Used with permission.

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