News

COVID-19: charity warns of knock-on effect on cancer care

Cancer Research UK survey reveals one in three cancer patients has experienced disruption to services
A woman looks distressed while reading a letter. One in three cancer patients treatment has been affected. Picture: iStock

Cancer Research UK survey reveals one in three cancer patients has experienced disruption to services

One in three cancer patients has experienced cancellations, delays and changes to their treatment due to the impact of COVID-19 on services.

Charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) estimates around 38,000 fewer treatments have taken place since lockdown began at the end of March than would normally have taken place in an 18-week period.

A survey carried out by the charity found about four in ten people (42%) also said their tests including those to find out whether their

Cancer Research UK survey reveals one in three cancer patients has experienced disruption to services

 iStock
COVID-19 has disrupted cancer services across the UK. Picture: iStock

One in three cancer patients has experienced cancellations, delays and changes to their treatment due to the impact of COVID-19 on services.

Charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) estimates around 38,000 fewer treatments have taken place since lockdown began at the end of March than would normally have taken place in an 18-week period. 

A survey carried out by the charity found about four in ten people (42%) also said their tests – including those to find out whether their cancer had spread or returned – had been affected, according to the survey of 1,900 cancer patients carried out in May.  

View our COVID-19 resource centre

Dealing with the backlog of cancer treatment

Some cancer services have started to recover since then, but CRUK remains worried that treatment, diagnosis, and screening are not restarting fast enough, and that the backlog is mounting.

CRUK chief clinician Charles Swanton said: 'It has been a stressful and lonely time for many patients, worried about coming to hospital for fear of catching the virus or having their treatment delayed or altered.

'The government must ensure, in advance of a resurgence of COVID-19 in the winter months, that patients have access to COVID-19-protected hospital facilities across the country so they can be cared for with little risk of contracting the virus.’

Patients left without care or support

Around 70% of people who had delays or cancellations to cancer testing and treatment reported feeling more frustrated and anxious. 

One survey respondent who had treatment for early stage breast cancer said her annual mammogram was postponed indefinitely.

'I worry that if I have a recurrence, it will be more advanced than it would have been pre-COVID,’ she said.

Another respondent, a 33-year-old man with stage four lung and gastrointestinal cancer, said: 'My diagnosis is terminal, and I wish I could attend support groups consisting of other terminal patients. It’s been upsetting coping with this without easy access to emotional support services.'

COVID-friendly cancer treatments

 Barney Newman
Simon Stevens. Picture: Barney Newman

A number of cancer treatments deemed 'COVID-friendly' and safer for patients to take during the pandemic are being rolled out in England and paid for through a £160 million funding boost.

Targeted hormone therapies – such as enzalutamide for prostate cancer and broadened use of lenalidomide in the treatment of myeloma – are among the options now available for clinicians and patients.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the adoption of 'new, kinder treatment options' were safer for use during the COVID-19 pandemic and more convenient for many patients, who can take medication at home or be given medicines with less harmful effects on their immune system.

 


In other news

Register for free updates Register for free updates

We have made it easy for you to stay up to date with the latest developments in nursing, including relevant COVID-19 information.

Register with us for free – it takes less than a minute – and you'll receive news and updates straight to your inbox.

Register here today

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to cancernursingpractice.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs