Analysis by CRUK reveals 2 million are waiting for cancer care due to Coronavirus
According to Cancer Research UK, approximately 2.4 million people in the UK are currently waiting for cancer screening, tests or cancer treatment.
The charity says COVID-19 has caused ‘enormous disruption’ to cancer services throughout the UK, with delays to cancer treatment, screening and diagnosis, and ‘huge decreases’ in urgent referrals to hospital of patients with suspected cancer symptoms.
The charity has found a backlog of around 2.1 million people left waiting for breast, bowel or cervical screening, and notes that during this time, 3,800 cancers would normally be diagnosed through screening.
Urgent cancer referrals have been ‘severely impacted’ with up to 290,000 people missing out on further testing, which would detect up to 20,300 cancers in the same time period, it warns, also highlighting a backlog of treatment to catch up on, with up to 12,750 fewer patients receiving surgery, 6,000 fewer for chemotherapy and 2,800 fewer receiving radiotherapy since lockdown began.
The charity says ‘COVID-protected’ safe spaces will be a crucial part of tackling this backlog and ensuring more people can safely receive treatment or be diagnosed quickly, but stresses that this will only be feasible if all cancer patients and healthcare staff – whether symptomatic or asymptomatic – are tested regularly for the virus.
It also calls for a ‘clear national plan’ for testing to facilitate the recovery and restoration of cancer services across the country.
“The enormous strain COVID-19 has placed on cancer services is of great concern to us,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
“To get cancer services back to normal levels while ensuring no one is put at risk, frequent testing of NHS staff and patients, including those without symptoms, is vital. We now need clear national leadership and guidance for the NHS to dramatically increase testing levels. At the moment, we don’t know who is responsible for making cancer services safe and its patients who are suffering in the meantime. The Government must work closely with the NHS to ramp up testing provision with rapid results, as quickly as possible once practical.
“Prompt diagnosis and treatment remain crucial to give people with cancer the greatest chances of survival and prevent the pandemic taking even more lives.”