Macmillan Cancer Support said the disease may become the “forgotten C” of the coronavirus pandemic, with evidence that patients have canceled or postponed appointments, while others awaiting possible diagnosis say that they are sent back to the hospital because of fears of contracting the virus.
It follows a study by the Institute of Cancer Research, London, which suggested that postponing cancer surgery for three months could lead to almost 5,000 more deaths in England alone.
A survey of 100 cancer patients who support Macmillan’s campaign work has shown that almost half (45%) have had their cancer treatment delayed, canceled or changed because of a coronavirus.
Steven McIntosh, Director of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We have seen a very disturbing drop in the number of people presenting with suspected cancer symptoms to be referred for diagnosis by their general practitioners.
“We estimate that the interruption of referrals from general practitioners – screening programs – could mean up to 1,900 cases of cancer per week currently undiagnosed.
“This is why we warn that the size of this time bomb is of deep concern for people with cancer, but also for storing huge problems for the NHS when trying to diagnose and treat cancer, when we have also found significant disruption to cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. “
The 1900 figure is based on evidence provided to Parliament last month by Dame Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director for NHS England, who said that two-week referrals – where GPs send suspected cancer patients to specialists for further investigation – had declined by almost two-thirds.
Macmillan Calls On Government To Establish Clear Plans To Restore Cancer Care That Clarifies How Cancer Patients Will Have Access To Timely Diagnosis And Treatment With Leading Edge Capacity To Make Up Backlog caused by coronavirus.
Professor Charles Swanton, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, who heads the Covid-19 testing laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute, said that late diagnosis is a major concern and that areas protected by Covid must be established urgently in hospitals to allow cancer screening and treatment to start again.
“We need to restore confidence in the system so that patients can be seen safely, treated and protected,” he said. This would require extensive, routine and rapid testing of health care workers and routine testing of patients on admission.
“We have to fundamentally integrate Covid tests into the fabric of modern life until it is in the distant past,” he said.
An analysis of official health data by Macmillan also suggested that cancer deaths may already have increased due to the interruption of care caused by Covid-19. He revealed that in England and Wales there were at least 500 more cancer deaths than the average in March and April of this year.
McIntosh said, “Macmillan is deeply concerned that the impact of the pandemic will really wreak havoc on the progress we have made in improving cancer care in the UK, in the will of the public. to manifest symptoms because he is nervous about the medical system and about the risk of interruption of cancer treatment and surgery.
“This is why it is so important to send a strong message to the public: you must report the symptoms of cancer and governments must demonstrate that cancer care is on the right track and delivered safely.
“We need to catch up on treatment so that we don’t see a significant increase in cancer deaths and we keep people from living anxiously in fear of the coronavirus and undiagnosed cancer.” “
Swanton said eliminating the backlog of missed appointments and processing delays would be a major challenge in the coming months. “The system is tense even in peacetime,” he said. “My concern is that the NHS will be in great demand when work resumes normally. “
The charity has seen an increase in demand for a number of its services and has launched new virtual services – like phone twinning – to keep people with cancer from falling through the cracks.
However, the charity said it would face up to 50% loss of income this year.