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NEWS > Alumnae News > Passion for Patients - Notes from a Pandemic

Passion for Patients - Notes from a Pandemic

Cathy Sertori ('84), Head of Patient Advocacy & Affordability Director at AstraZeneca, shares her experience working on a project highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses.
15 Oct 2021
Alumnae News

In her capacity as Head of Patient Advocacy & International Patient Advocacy & Affordability Director at AstraZeneca, alumna and passionate patient advocate Cathy Sertori (’84) worked on a project that highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses. As part of our Notes on a Pandemic series, Cathy shares this feature article about what led to 'New Normal, Same Cancer.'

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted healthcare, and cancer is no exception. In fact, within less than 2 months following the start of the pandemic, average weekly new cancer diagnoses dropped by about 46% across six major types of cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric and esophageal cancer combined). 

Cancer Australia (CA) released its most recent report (30 September 2021), titled “The impact of COVID-19 on cancer-related medical services and procedures in Australia in 2020: Examination of MBS claims data for 2020, nationally and by jurisdiction”. The report shows a significant drop in the number of cancer services delivered across all types of cancers in 2020 due to the impact of COVID. Overall, there were 163,595 fewer procedures compared to the same period in 2019, with the biggest drops seen in procedures for bowel cancer (13% drop), liver cancer (12% drop) and lung cancer (9% drop). The report contains MBS data up to December 2020, for 14 cancer types.

That doesn’t mean fewer people are getting cancer. Instead, they may be going undiagnosed until their cancer reaches a later stage when it may be less treatable and survival rates are lower. Because of this, many cancer deaths are predicted over the next five years due to potential missed screenings and reductions in oncology essential diagnostic services caused by the pandemic.

A consultation with a Global Patient Advisory Board raised that an advocacy campaign was needed to address the challenges and concerns associated with COVID 19 and cancer care. We collaborated with Australian patient advocacy leaders and patients to co-design and create the concept of “New Normal, Same Cancer." 

The Conversation Series was the evolution of the campaign, launching in December 2020. In this powerful video series, people with cancer, their carers, and healthcare professionals talk openly about their experiences and share the calls to action that every Australian should hear.

Cathy Sertori ('84)

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