Alarming reports in the first national lockdown that almost half of people with potential cancer symptoms did not contact their GP, and that routine appointments had been pushed back, have been reinforced by continuing concern that the pandemic will increase cancer death rates.
Cancer symptoms not being detected
The main reasons given by people who did not contact their GP although they were worried about symptoms, were not wanting to put additional strain on the NHS during the pandemic, and the concern of contracting Covid-19 whilst at their GP surgery.
But the delay in seeking medical attention may simply allow symptoms to worsen – although we had been told to ‘stay at home’, this does not pause the problem.
Charities’ concerns about the cancer death rate
A group of 47 cancer charities have made clear that unless this is looked at urgently, the cancer death rate could increase, because thousands of people have not started the cancer treatment that they require during the pandemic.
The charities’ greatest concern is that NHS resources are clearly under great pressure, so less resource is now available to diagnose and treat cancer compared to pre-pandemic and this is creating a significant backlog.
It has been estimated that millions of people receiving cancer treatment have been affected at some point during the pandemic.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, who is also in charge of cancer charity One Cancer Voice, has said they are “calling on the government to invest more money in ensuring the backlog of cancer cases is reduced and eliminated”. In the meantime, One Cancer Voice has advised people that the worry of cancer symptoms will not go away by avoiding an appointment with their GP and that they should not be put off addressing any symptoms.
Our expert view
Ally Taft, partner at Medical Accident Group, said: “The delays in the NHS and the treatment of cancer is deeply concerning. Anyone with any symptoms of cancer, no matter how serious, should address these with their GP as they would have done pre-pandemic. Urgent action must be taken to improve these delays and prevent the cancer death rate increasing.”
Cancer Research UK have produced a helpful guide on contacting your GP with cancer symptoms during the pandemic which you can view here.
If you or a family member have had any symptoms or treatments that have been affected by the pandemic, Medical Accident Group can help.