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Thousands of cancer patients missed treatments due to coronavirus pandemic

And there were eight additional cancer deaths every day during the first two months of the pandemic restrictions.

Figures from charity Macmillan show there were 500 more cancer fatalities in March and April than would be normally expected – the equivalent of 58 a week.

Cancer Research UK estimates more than 20,000 patients did not get treatment because of the virus crisis.

It estimates over the last 11 weeks 3,100 missed out on radiotherapy, 6,500 missed chemotherapy and 14,000 missed surgery.

Cancer is again a bigger killer than coronavirus, and the figures fuel growing fears that there could be more lives lost because of the disruption of NHS services than are saved by the measures.

Professor Gordon Wishart, a breast cancer surgeon, said: “This early increase in cancer deaths will be to do with delays or cancellations of crucial treatments such as chemotherapy. Over the next 12 months we will see the devastating impact of delays in screening and diagnosis.

“The number of patients with undiagnosed or untreated cancer is growing and will result in an increased deaths and huge anxiety to patients affected.”

Professor Wishart, Chief Medical Officer at Check4Cancer, a company that specialises in early cancer diagnostics added: “This will continue unless we urgently increase access to cancer diagnosis and treatments.”

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Delays to diagnosis and treatment could mean some cancers will become inoperable.

“Patients shouldn’t need to wait for this to be over before getting treatment.”

The Office for National Statistics shows deaths from covid-19 have now fallen below cancer death rates for the first time since late March.

Professor Richard Sullivan, director of the Institute of Cancer Policy at Kings College London, recently warned deaths due to the disruption of cancer services are likely to outweigh deaths from coronavirus over the next five years.

Professor Karol Sikora, pictured, former head ofWorld Health Organization cancer programme, said the backlog of cancer cases due to Covid-19 will require an emergency national response similar to the response to Covid-19 itself to prevent a full-blown health crisis in the coming months.

The professor, who is chief medical officer at private cancer centre, Rutherford Health, added: “Our worst fears about a significant build-up of cancer cases due to Covid-19 have become a reality. It remains a real possibility that coronavirus will claim more lives through cancer than Covid-19 itself.This would be an unimaginable disaster. Even modest delays can impact patient survival.

“The only way to prevent this is through a national effort which includes coordination from the Government and collaboration from the public and independent sectors.”

An NHS spokesman said: “The NHS ensured essential cancer treatments could go ahead during the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is why we have not seen a significant change in cancer mortality from missed or delayed treatments. Services are largely now open.

“Anyone concerned about a possible cancer symptom should contact their GP.”

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