Since the first wave, appeals have been made that, no matter what the complaint is, one should visit the GP. The message doesn’t appear to come across. This is disastrous for cancer patients. Figures show that fewer diagnoses are made and that the disease is identified at a later stage. People either don’t visit their GP or go too late for fear of COVID-19 or because they think that their GP is too busy. In Maastricht too, says Bernd Kremer, director of MUMC’s oncology centre. “Maastricht follows the national trend. In March, April and May, the number of diagnoses was up to 25 per cent lower than expected,” says Kremer.
That is why a group of cancer patient organisations have started a campaign beseeching people to visit their GPs. The campaign website gives an overview of symptoms that could be caused by cancer. Is your symptom on the list? Then do go to your doctor. Kremer feels that such campaigns are “very useful. The earlier you catch something like this, the better it can be treated. Do you have symptoms? Go to the hospital.”
Scientific research into the disease has also suffered because of COVID-19. At Maastricht University, there are worries, said Ruud Bollen, director of finances, during the latest discussion of the UM 2021 budget in the University Council meeting. “We don’t have the exact figures yet,” he emphasised. But the UM is taking into account the possibility that less subsidy money will be available next year, because for example, collection box funds have less to spend. “Hardly any collections have taken place since March.”
All the more reason for collecting money in other ways, says Eline van Gorp, third-year medical student and secretary of ‘Students Fight Cancer’. They have been collecting funds for ‘Kankeronderzoeksfonds Limburg’ since last year. “Especially at times like this, it is important to organise events to collect money for cancer research and to focus extra attention on the disease.”