A study from University College London (UCL) and DATA-CAN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer has suggested that over 18,000 cancer patients could die in England as a result of the global pandemic. This is potentially due to delays in diagnosis and treatment significantly impacting patients’ chances of survival.
Experts based their estimate on real-time data from hospitals showing dramatic drops in attendance for chemotherapy and in referrals for early cancer diagnosis.
“This is an enormously difficult time for our health service and for everyone fighting COVID-19. The situation is particularly critical for people with existing health conditions including those with cancer so we were delighted to hear yesterday’s announcement from the Health Secretary that hospitals are now restarting vital services including cancer care. But we are aware it may take some time for services to reach normal capacity.
“The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) represents six less survivable cancers, lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach, which collectively have an average five year survival rate of just 15%.
“People diagnosed with these cancers already have heartbreakingly poor survival rates but treatment can add precious months or years to their life expectancies. The overwhelming and unprecedented pressures on all areas of the NHS due to COVID-19 has meant that the situation has become more desperate for these patients as resources have been diverted to tackle the devastating effects of this virus.
“We are deeply concerned for people with less survivable cancers who may have found their treatments delayed, and we are still worried that people with potential cancer symptoms are delaying seeking help. We want to emphasize the message that the NHS is open and there for people with concerning new symptoms not linked to COVID 19.
“We are urging the public not to ignore cancer symptoms and to seek help from their GP immediately rather than waiting for this outbreak to pass. This includes any unexplained new symptoms that are unusual for them such as changes to bowel habits, abdominal pain, headaches, bleeding and coughs. Ignoring problems can have serious consequences while fast diagnosis and treatment can make an enormous difference when it comes to Less Survivable Cancers.”