Late Breast Cancer Diagnosis on the Rise as NHS Battles Covid Crisis | Cancer

An increasing number of women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, undermining their chances of survival due to the disruption of NHS care by Covid, a charity has warned.

The number of women diagnosed with stage 4 disease is up to 48% higher in a few months than expected, and the pandemic is to blame, says Macmillan Cancer Support.

At the same time, it is being confirmed that fewer women have stage 1 breast cancer, when their chances of responding well to treatment and living longer are much higher.

For example, 128 women were diagnosed at stage 4 in April, 28 (42%) more than expected, based on pre-pandemic trends, Macmillan said. But in the same month, 942 stage 1 were diagnosed, 164 (15%) less than expected.

Macmillan estimates that there is now a backlog of 47,300 people across the UK who have yet to be diagnosed with some form of cancer, as a direct result of Covid. They include people who were unable to access care in the usual way because many NHS services were cut, and also those who were too scared to seek help or did not want to increase the pressure that was already under health service. None have had a confirmed cancer diagnosis, although some may be undergoing screening or testing.

“The full impact of the pandemic on subsequent diagnosis will not be understood for some time. But these numbers reinforce our worst fears that the delays and disruption caused by the pandemic are leading to more and more people being diagnosed later, ”said Steven McIntosh, CEO of Macmillan.

“Anyone diagnosed at a later stage faces the agony of having fewer options and a worse prognosis. In addition, they are entering a system that does not have the capacity to guarantee them timely treatment and attention, which is of the utmost importance, “he added.

The charity wants ministers to present detailed plans to ease “alarming pressures on cancer services” when they publish their “elective recovery plan” next week. It will detail how NHS England will address the record queue of patients awaiting medical care of 5.8 million people.

A Macmillan analysis found that the cancers that experienced the largest drops in diagnosis in England between March 2020 and July this year included prostate cancer (23.1% less), multiple myeloma (13.8%), melanoma (13.2%) and breast cancer (11.6%). ).

Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrats deputy leader and health spokesperson, said people “will be alarmed by these numbers that show a record number of people waiting too long for cancer treatment, leaving them at risk of more intensive treatment and a lower chance of survival.

“Of particular concern is that prostate cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer have the most missed diagnoses.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Welfare said: “Cancer diagnosis and treatment is a top priority and almost half a million people were screened for cancer in August and September this year, one of the highest numbers in history. .

“We remain committed to implementing our long-term plan to fight cancer and have supported the NHS with a record investment, including £ 2 billion this year and £ 8 billion over the next three years to deliver an additional 9 million of controls, scans and operations for patients.

“Most cancer services have returned to or above pre-pandemic levels and the latest NHS figures show a reduction in the number of patients awaiting a diagnostic scan for the first time this year, which means that now more people get the controls they need. “

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