Coronavirus epidemic could lead to 18,000 more cancer deaths in a year, study suggests

Almost 18,000 more people could die from cancer over the next year in England because of the impact of COVID-19, new research suggests.

It has prompted the NHS Clinical Director for Cancer, Professor Peter Johnson to declare that “cancer treatment hasn’t stopped” because of coronavirus and he is urging people with cancer symptoms not to delay in seeking medical help.

The study from University College London (UCL) and DATA-CAN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer examined real-time weekly hospital data for urgent cancer referrals and chemotherapy attendances during the epidemic.

It found that the majority of patients with cancer or suspected cancer are not accessing health services.

Analysing figures from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the Royal Free in London and University College London Hospitals and all five health trusts in Northern Ireland, it found an average reduction in attendance for chemotherapy of 60% and a 76% average drop in cancer referrals for early diagnosis.

Comparing the data from 3.5 million patients, the report’s authors estimated that pre-COVID-19, about 31,354 newly diagnosed cancer patients would die within a year in England.

But as a result of coronavirus, they found there could be at least 6,270 extra deaths in newly diagnosed cancer patients – a rise of a fifth.

When all people currently living with cancer are included, the figure jumps to 17,915 excess deaths.

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