People with breast cancer fearing for survival during pandemic

Charity Breast Cancer Now reports unparalleled volume of calls to helpline since start of COVID-19 pandemic

Many woman experiencing breast cancer fear they are missing life-extending treatment. Picture: iStock

Delays in cancer surgery due to the COVID-19 pandemic could cost people with breast cancer their lives, a charity warned.

Breast Cancer Now said it has received an unparalleled number of calls to its helpline from women who fear their lives will be shortened due to changes in their treatments, scans, and trials.

The charity has received more than 2,700 enquiries to its helpline and its online Ask Our Nurses service since the coronavirus outbreak began, with almost half of enquiries being about the effects of COVID-19.

Breast Cancer Now chief executive calls for ‘clear plans’ for patients

The charity has published results of a survey of more than 580 people affected by breast cancer in the UK.

Of 190 respondents living with incurable secondary breast cancer, almost a quarter (24%) had seen delays or cancellations to their potentially life-extending treatment – with a further 10% having monitoring scans delayed or cancelled.

Breast Cancer Now chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan said: ‘We call on UK governments and NHS bodies to set out clear plans to ensure everyone living with secondary breast cancer can safely receive the treatment and care they need as soon as possible at COVID-free hubs or sites.’

‘Without clear plans to restore treatment, services and trials as soon as it is safe and feasible to do so, thousands of people could miss out on precious extra time with their loved ones, which would be absolutely heart-breaking.’

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Responses from UK devolved governments

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it will take the findings into account as restoration of services, adding most treatments had continued.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said cancer care capacity has been reduced by the pandemic, but it was working to increase capacity.

A spokesperson for Northern Ireland’s Department of Health acknowledged many procedures and appointments had been delayed. They said immediate focus is now on resumption of any urgent services that had been delayed.

NHS England was contacted for comment.

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