The impact of delays in cancer diagnostic services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are emerging now with an increase in patients seeking treatment for later-stage conditions.
Breast cancer diagnostic services in the UK can detect over 20,000 cancers per year in the UK, saving thousands of lives. The cancer backlog means that thousands of people may be living with cancer without realising it, increasing the risk of an upward stage migration in their cancers, according to a leading expert on cancer.
Referrals for cancer were down 15% in August compared with the previous year, but it was 28% down for breast cancer, in part due to the collapse in diagnostic services. The impact on cancer diagnostics from Covid-19 could mean up to 9,000 women have breast cancer without being aware of it.
Professor Karol Sikora, chief medical officer at Rutherford Health and the former director of the cancer programme at the WHO, said: “This is a very serious crisis and with the return of Covid-19 restrictions in most parts of the country, the situation for breast cancer care could become dire.