Head, Screening Group, Early Detection & Prevention Section, | International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO)
Partha Basu, MD, PhD
Head, Screening (SCR) Group
Early Detection and Prevention Section (EDP)
International Agency for Research on Cancer
World Health Organization
Cancer screening – during a pandemic and beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic, described by some as ‘the worst public health crisis in a generation’ has already claimed 1.3 million lives and has strained the health systems to the extreme. Non-emergency health services, such as cancer screening and diagnosis, have been scaled down or deferred as health resources have been redirected to managing the pandemic and controlling transmission of disease. The challenges of overloaded health infrastructure, shifting health priorities and reallocation of health budget will have a deep and lasting impact on cancer screening, diagnostic and treatment services. Our recently completed study evaluating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in selected low and middle-income countries reported complete suspension of screening activities for at least one month almost in all countries. What is more worrying is that cancer treatment was also suspended in a significant number of LMICs and they do not have any contingency plan to tide over the backlog of cases. A modeling study has already predicted a significant impact on cancer survival over the next few years in the United Kingdom. The population in the LMICS, especially the vulnerable ones are likely to be worse affected. In the context of cancer screening, a number of changes need to be considered to meet the health system challenges and increased infection control requirements system, especially in low-resource countries. Our study also identified a number of innovative measures that the LMICs have adopted to optimize cancer screening services for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening.
Dr. Partha Basu is Head of Screening Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). He was Head of Gynecological Oncology at Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, India before joining IARC in 2015.
Dr. Basu’s current research projects include: a) cohort study to evaluate single dose of HPV vaccine; b) RCT to evaluate a new Indian HPV vaccine; c) RCT to evaluate thermal ablation; d) evaluation of artificial intelligence for cervical cancer early detection; e) study of vaginal microbiome in HIV+ women; f) RCT to evaluate clinical breast examination; g) evaluation of automated breast ultrasound; h) evaluation of cancer screening programmes in Europe and Latin America; i) evaluation of colorectal cancer screening in Mediterranean Region. These projects are funded by National Institute of Health (USA), Gates Foundation, American Cancer Society, MRC (UK), Norwegian Research Council, Swiss Cancer Research, Lalla Salma Foundation (Morocco), Indo-American Cancer Association etc.
Dr. Basu’s publications may be accessed at