About 3,500 people in England may die within the next five years of one of the four main cancers – breast, lung, oesophageal or bowel – as a result of delays in being diagnosed because of COVID-19, say the researchers in the Lancet Oncology journal.
“Our findings demonstrate the impact of the national Covid-19 response, which may cut short the lives of thousands of people with cancer in England over the next five years,” said Dr Ajay Aggarwal from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who led the research.
Routine cancer screening was suspended during the lockdown, the authors said. So was the routine referral to hospital outpatient departments of people with symptoms that could be something else but also might possibly be cancer. Only those deemed to need emergency care by the GP or those who go to A&E are being picked up. Inevitably, those are people with more advanced cancers. If cancer is picked up at an earlier stage, successful treatment and survival are much more likely.
“Whilst currently attention is being focused on diagnostic pathways where cancer is suspected, the issue is that a significant number of cancers are diagnosed in patients awaiting investigation for symptoms not considered related to be cancer. Therefore we need a whole system approach to avoid the predicted excess deaths,” said Aggarwal.
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Source: The Guardian, 20 July 2020