About 10,600 fewer breast cancer patients have started treatment in the last year in England.
Breast cancer deaths hit an all-time low before the pandemic, but experts fear these new statistics show that this much-earned progress could be slowed.
Charities estimate that about 38,000 fewer people began treatment for all types of cancer in England. I pit cancer accounts for more than a quarter of these “missing cancers” during the pandemic, nearly double what might be expected.
These are probably people with cancer but who have not yet been diagnosed.
Impact on projection
Most of these “missing” breast cancers are early-stage diseases, based on provisional data from the Public Health England Rapid Cancer Registry. Of the breast cancers with known missing stages, almost 95% (93%) were in the early stages (stages 1 and 2), which are usually more treatable.
These are likely to be cancers that have not been detected during breast screening, which was effectively stopped for several months and only started sending routine invitations after the first wave.
“We’re seeing the impact of an effective breast screening break that detects nearly a third of breast cancer cases,” Swanton said.
“But it’s important to remember that cancer screening is for asymptomatic people, so it’s vital that if people notice something common for them, don’t wait for detection; contact your doctor. In most cases it will not be cancer, but if so, catching it soon offers the best chance of survival. “
Many people also stayed home, stopping seeking help to find symptoms during pandemic peaks, for fear of catching COVID-19 or not wanting to overwhelm the NHS.
Risk vital progress
The charity fears that advances in reducing breast cancer deaths, which had made great strides in the last decade, could slow down.
Since records began in the 1970s, breast cancer mortality rates have dropped nearly 40%. This progress is due to the huge evolution in the understanding of breast cancer and its treatment.
From Cancer Research UK scientists laying the groundwork for the drug Herceptin, on the discovery of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, al development of a new family of targeted drugs known as PARP inhibitors through studies funded by Cancer Research UK, research has played an important role.
But that progress is in jeopardy. It is important for women to show symptoms and consider testing when invited, but the NHS also needs the ability to treat these women when they finally enter the system.
Michelle Mitchell, executive director of Cancer Research UK, said: “Science is the way to beat cancer and from cell biology in the lab, to patient trials in hospitals, Cancer Research UK has helped reduce the deaths from breast cancer.But these figures are worrisome, and we could see slow progress in the coming years as the real effect of the pandemic is revealed.
“The NHS is showing signs of recovery, but great efforts still need to be made to eliminate the cancer deficit as quickly as possible to help prevent preventable cancer deaths as a result of the pandemic.”
Mitchell added that the Government must ensure that there is sufficient funding for staff, diagnostic equipment and research needed to improve long-term cancer care across the UK, so that ” cancer patients have the best chance of surviving their disease. “
“It was such an emotional time”
Army veteran Charly McNelis, 37, was diagnosed Lung cancer in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. The mother of two scheduled an appointment with the GP after finding a lump and was referred to the breast clinic. “I was in a state of panic. I was reading about everything.”
His biopsy was in early March. “COVID-19 wasn’t really a concern at the time,” she says, but things changed quickly over the next few weeks.
“I went back to the results on March 10 and it was confirmed that I had cancer. They said I would have chemotherapy first, then radiation therapy and surgery.” Charly asked if the treatment plan could be affected by COVID-19, but doctors didn’t know enough about it at the time.
But the situation evolved with the outbreak, with Charly’s appointment followed by a series of calls. “By now pandemic levels were rising and they explained that I didn’t feel safe going down the path of chemotherapy, so I would first have surgery and it still had to be a lumpectomy. But when I went to meet the surgeon the week after, that turned into a complete mastectomy. “
Because of COVID-19, Charly’s doctors switched to chemotherapy drugs to minimize the risk of infection. He began chemotherapy after surgery in early May, which lasted a total of 18 weeks.
“It’s such an emotional time and it’s running out: the COVID-19 has been a major factor.”
But while her treatment has so far been complicated and challenging, Charly is positive. “I am lucky in many ways: mine cancer it is treatable. COVID-19 has affected my treatment options but has not stopped it, and for that I am grateful. I got my diagnosis and had to receive treatment when there are people who have not started treatment and are not diagnosed. ”
Cancer Research UK
Citation: Fears That Breast Cancer Progress May Be Stopped Due to COVID-19 Delay (2021, June 15) Retrieved June 15, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06 -breast-cancer-stall-due-covid-.html
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