“I was worried about the cancer patients and them getting their diagnosis because everything just stopped. And I’m still worrying about that now, will we ever catch up? Will there be too many late diagnoses? We’re going to be in for an explosion and how are we going to manage that?” - Macmillan Cancer Lead Nurse
The impact of Covid-19 on people affected by cancer and their long-term health prospects continues to be profound. Rightly, the NHS pulled out all the stops to care for people with Covid-19, but our report completed at the end of 2020 suggests hundreds of thousands of people at risk of becoming the forgotten ‘C’ during the coronavirus crisis.
We know that 50,000 people have now missed a cancer diagnosis due to limited numbers of cancer referrals and screening. If these do not return to pre-pandemic levels, the backlog could grow by almost 4,000 missing diagnoses every month, reaching over 100,000 by October this year.
There are also more than 650,000 people with cancer in the UK that have experienced disruption to their cancer treatment or care because of Covid-19, waiting for follow up scans, tests and treatments.
“I was anxious but my routine scan was two weeks away so I thought that would pick up if anything is untoward or dodgy. But like everything, it was cancelled. I made numerous phone calls to the MRI centre and the Neurology Department but it still took two and a half months to get my scan done, and then only as I’d ranted and complained.
I then had a phone call towards the end of May, to tell me ‘I’m sorry Mr Green, you were right, the brain tumour has come back, and it’s now inoperable’. I was devastated” - Simon, diagnosed with cancer, aged 42
Cancer doesn’t stop for Covid-19 and neither can our health services. Our analysis shows that even with a significant extra resource (over and above pre-pandemic levels), it will take 20 months to clear the backlog in cancer diagnosis.
To address this, Macmillan has been doing everything possible to assist our colleagues in the NHS - providing emergency funding for cancer services, while simultaneously investing in our support and information services to make them more accessible both now and in the future.
We are also calling on governments across the UK to acknowledge the scale of the cancer backlog and commit the resource required to tackle it, ringfencing staffing and Covid-protected spaces throughout the third wave of the pandemic. To find out more about this work and how to get involved, you can visit our website and add your voice to our forgotten ‘C’ campaign.
All of this work is achieved thanks to the generosity of the general public, and with this in mind we want to say a huge thank you to PayingTooMuch customers who continue to donate to support people affected by cancer across the UK.
By Owain Rees, Relationship Fundraising Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support