Soaring numbers of women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, undermining their chances of survival, because of Covid’s disruption of NHS care, a charity has warned.
The number of women being diagnosed with the disease at stage 4 is as much as 48% higher in some months than expected, with the pandemic to blame, says Macmillan Cancer Support.
At the same time, fewer women are being confirmed as having breast cancer at stage 1, when their chances of responding well to treatment and living longer are much higher.
Macmillan estimates that there is now a backlog of 47,300 people across the UK who have not yet been diagnosed with some form of cancer, as a direct result of Covid. They include people who could not access care in the usual way because many NHS services were scaled back, and also those who were too scared to seek help or did not want to add to the pressure the health service was already under. None have had a confirmed diagnosis of cancer, though some may be undergoing tests or screening.
Steven McIntosh, Executive Director of Advocacy and Communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Nearly two years into the pandemic, there is still a mountain of almost 50,000 people who are missing a cancer diagnosis. Thousands more are already facing delays and disruption as they go through treatment. While hard-working healthcare professionals continue to do all they can to diagnose and treat patients on time, they are fighting an uphill battle. Cancer patients are stuck, waiting in a system that doesn’t have the capacity to treat them fast enough, let alone deal with the backlog of thousands who have yet to come forward.”
“The Government has promised an NHS Elective Recovery Plan. This must show how it will tackle spiralling pressures on cancer services. It has never been more crucial to boost NHS capacity to treat and support everybody with cancer, so people receive the critical care they need now and in the years to come.”
Source: The Guardian, 26 November 2021
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