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Ukrainians Facing Another Deadly Threat


15 Mar 2022


Global Europe

Brussels, 15 March 2022: Since the Russian invasion began 24 February, the United Nations estimates 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled their country and another 2 million are internally displaced, as Russian forces bomb residential areas at a rapidly escalating rate.

Many Ukrainians facing this onslaught were already in a separate, more personal battle to survive. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 400,000 Ukrainians are suffering from cancer, with more than 160,000 new diagnoses in 2020 alone.

Now, according to Ukrainian oncologists, much of the cancer care in eastern Ukraine has been stopped.

“In the city of Kharkiv, with an approximate population of one and a half million citizens, the one oncological hospital is destroyed, the only hospital in this area,” said Dr. Andriy Hrynkiv, a surgical oncologist at the Lviv Regional Cancer Centre of Ukraine. “In the city of Kyiv, with an approximate population of 3 million citizens, three oncology centres are providing just emergency care and outpatient chemotherapy.”

In western Ukraine, where refugees have flocked in a desperate exodus, cancer services are operational, but healthcare professionals and hospitals are overwhelmed by the sheer number of displaced persons. Patients who have crossed the border into neighbouring countries often reach perplexed healthcare workers who have no access to their medical records and face significant language barriers.

This is the assessment presented to a rapidly organised network developing cancer care for Ukrainian refugees. The 10 March inaugural meeting included representatives from more than 30 international cancer groups.

The network is led by the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in collaboration with the World Health Organization. It will be a hub to direct healthcare workers and patients to real-time information, experience, and contacts – across multiple languages, inside Ukraine and throughout much of Europe.

For example, today the network has been asked to provide the WHO with the capacity of cancer centres and hospitals outside Ukraine. This will be used to quickly build a database for Ukrainian cancer patients able to leave the country.

Cancer groups that can contribute services or resources can join the network, which can be accessed here.

“With the sheer devastation we have seen in Ukraine – the unimaginable pain and suffering – it is easy to overlook the other life-threatening issues faced by many Ukrainians,” said ECO President Andreas Charalambous. “Continued access to oncology services must be available for displaced people, regardless of where they’re forced to migrate. We must do everything possible to avoid disruptions to their care. Cancer does not wait.

Notes to editors:

  1. About the European Cancer Organisation

The European Cancer Organisation is the largest multi-professional cancer organisation in Europe. It aims to reduce the burden of cancer, improve outcomes and the quality of care for cancer patients, through multi-disciplinarity and multi-professionalism. As the not-for-profit federation of member organisations working in cancer at a European level, the European Cancer Organisation convenes oncology professionals and patients to agree policy, advocate for positive change and speak up for the European cancer community. More information is available here.

  1. Special Network: Impact of the War in Ukraine on Cancer

Following discussions with the WHO, EU Commission and the new ASCO-ECO Ukraine Steering Committee, the ECO Board and ASCO have created a new Special Network on the Impact of the War in Ukraine on Cancer. The first meeting of this Special Network, co-chaired by the ECO President Andreas Charalambous, ASCO President-Elect Eric Winer and Richard Sullivan, who will be the Special Network Liaison with the WHO Emergency Committee, was held on Thursday 10 March 2022. More information is available here.

Press Contacts

Agnese Abolina, Communication and Community Manager, European Cancer Organisation


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