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Perspective

Rebecca Bergin, Research Fellow, Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer Council Victoria

Rebecca Bergin, Research Fellow, Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer Council Victoria

“This pandemic has been a huge natural experiment in the potential importance of delayed diagnosis. The registry is essential in capturing this impact.”

Rebecca is a researcher at Cancer Council Victoria, where she is studying the steps a person moves through before their cancer diagnosis.

When the Victorian Department of Health put out a call for researchers to assist with their COVID-19 response in 2020, Rebecca put up her hand to go part-time in her research position and join the department’s COVID-19 intelligence data and reporting team.

Her role was to analyse and summarise Victoria’s COVID-19 data for use by decision makers.

At one stage, Rebecca was tasked with understanding how many people with COVID-19 came from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, to support awareness campaigns and track the impact of the pandemic on different groups.

This research had strong links to Rebecca’s usual work at Cancer Council Victoria, where she studies people’s journey to a cancer diagnosis, in order to reduce inequities based on their wealth or where they live.

Based on what she knows about the importance of early diagnosis, the potential delay in cancer diagnoses due to COVID-19 weighs heavily on Rebecca’s mind.

“It is fascinating for me as a researcher… [The COVID-19 pandemic] really does demonstrate that what we may see in the future is potentially people with a later stage disease [when they are diagnosed]. And the potential impact of that is poorer survival.”