On Friday 15 May 2020 the Slovenian Press Agency Club organized an online panel discussion titled “Cancer patient care during the coronavirus epidemic” with the support of the Forum of International Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies, EIG. Invited speakers at the discussion were experts in the field of oncology Associate Prof. Dr. Irena Oblak, Medical Director of the Institute of Oncology, Prof. Dr. Tanja Čufer, world renowned oncologist who shares her knowledge at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ljubljana, Sašo Rebolj, family physician and Director of community healthcare center Kamnik and Tanja Španič, President of Europa Donna Slovenia.

Speakers emphasized that the coronavirus pandemic has brought many challenges to the field of oncology as cancer patients are at high risk of infection with the virus while also risking advancing their disease due to improper treatment. Some of the main issues included delays at the primary level where the number of diagnosed patients has decreased across all age groups. 

According to Dr. Čufar cancer is the number one threat to public health in Slovenia and around the world and has a 100 percent mortality rate if left untreated. Each year 18 million people around the world fall ill with cancer and around 9.5 million die.

The reduction in the number of examinations was particularly emphasized by Sašo Rebolj. Under his charge the Kamnik healthcare center has begun to call on people to schedule appointments through local mass media. According to Dr. Oblak the reduction in referrals was also detected at the Institute of Oncology. 

All speakers agreed that oncology must maintain its activities in spite of the COVID-19 epidemic. A one percent increase in mortality due to cancer in Slovenia means an additional 30 deaths.

The Forum shares the concern of the speakers and hereby calls on everybody not to wait or put off diagnostic appointments because a timely diagnosis and commencement of treatment are essential for a successful treatment of this disease.  

The entire discussion with the experts can be viewed at: https://livestream.com/accounts/564247/events/7618799/videos/206073948/player