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Cancer cases are going undetected during coronavirus impacting chances of survival

MORE than 2,200 new cancer cases could be going undetected each week as the coronavirus crisis continues, Cancer Research warned today, dramatically hitting survival chances.

Urgent referrals by GPs have dropped to about 25 per cent of usual levels, the charity says, as fewer people visit their doctor and with practitioners reluctant to send patients to hospital due to the risk of infection.

Screening services have been paused formally in Scotland and Wales, while in England there is a de-facto pause, with screening appointments not being made. 

Cancer Research says that the delay could jeopardise the recovery of thousands of people because cancers are significantly easier to treat in their early stages

Doctors are concerned that early-stage cancers are being “parked” for three months or more, making the chances of curative surgery to remove all cancerous tissue less likely.

The charity is calling on the NHS to develop a plan to increase screening dramatically to deal with the backlog of cases once it is safe to do so. 

NHS clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said that while the service was working day and night to tackle coronavirus, it remains open for other vital diagnosis and treatment. 

Royal College of GPs chairman Professor Martin Marshall said: “We can’t stress enough how important it is that patients who have concerns about their health, such as potential cancer symptoms, contact their GP practice during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Macmillian Cancer Support chief executive Lynda Thomas called on the government to reinforce its “NHS open for business” message, highlighting that cancer symptoms are just as serious as other major health conditions such as stroke and heart attacks.

Speaking in the Commons today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged non-coronavirus patients requiring urgent care to seek help immediately, but said that he could not guarantee that all cancer treatment would go ahead as there are some treatments that are “clinically inadvisable” due to the risk of catching Covid-19.

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