The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted unprecedented changes in cancer care across the cancer care pathway. Cancer Australia has undertaken an extensive COVID-specific body of work in response to the emerging challenges of managing cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and has considered strategies to embed and enhance identified high-value changes in cancer care through the recovery phases. The evolving nature of the pandemic has also highlighted both the need to readily access up-to-date data to inform policy and care, and the notable gaps in availability and timely access in Australia. Real-time access to integrated datasets will allow for a more responsive cancer sector, through the ‘chronic’ phases of a pandemic and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed the utility of rapidly available data in emerging situations, alongside standardised national data as the gold-standard for ongoing collections. Cancer Australia was able to utilise monthly services MBS data to understand the immediate impacts of the pandemic on cancer at a service level; results showed national reductions in total monthly services for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures during the initial COVID-19 period of March-June 2020. Cancer Australia will continue to utilise national data sets and collaborate with State and Territories to seek sharing of real-time data to inform the pandemic response.
Building on knowledge and leadership gained through our work on the national collection and reporting of cancer stage at diagnosis, treatments and recurrence (Cancer Australia’s STaR project), Cancer Australia will continue to address the challenge provided by the lack of availability of real-time national cancer data, in delivering an evidence-base to inform cancer control policy and cancer care.