In addition to the lives claimed by the COVID-19 virus itself, there is growing concern that the pandemic’s impact on healthcare infrastructure could lead to a substantial increase in cancer-related deaths. Research has indicated that as a result of COVID-19-related disruptions in hospitals, there could be nearly 18,000 more cancer deaths. The situation is exacerbated by delayed treatments and reduced patient willingness to seek NHS care.
Experts have estimated that an extra 6,270 people in England who have been newly diagnosed with cancer may die from it over the next 12 months due to the direct consequences of disruptions caused by COVID-19. Taking into account all those living with cancer, the additional toll could reach 17,915.
Macmillan Cancer Support has expressed grave concern over these findings and emphasized the importance of not neglecting cancer care during the pandemic.
Urgent referrals by GPs for cancer tests have fallen by 76%, and appointments for chemotherapy have declined by 60% since the pandemic began in February.
The NHS aims to resume cancer operations, but it faces a significant backlog.
Research by University College London (UCL) and Data-Can, a health data research hub for cancer diagnosis and treatment in the UK, quantifies the potential impact of delayed cancer treatments and patients avoiding hospitals due to infection concerns.
Some of the projected additional deaths will be due to COVID-19 infection among people with cancer, while others will occur because of late diagnoses and treatment delays.
The study indicates that almost eight in 10 of the additional fatalities will be among people recently diagnosed with cancer who also have at least one other long-term illness.
Experts emphasize the importance of patients seeking care for cancer symptoms promptly.
COVID-19’s impact on cancer patients is influenced by rapid changes in diagnosis and treatment protocols, social distancing measures, changes in patient behavior, and the economic consequences of the pandemic.
This research underscores the critical need to address the broader healthcare impact of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in the context of cancer care and other underlying health conditions. The potential increase in cancer-related deaths is a pressing concern that requires careful management and planning to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients.