The UK’s cancer death rate could rise for the first time in decades due to pandemic

A group of 47 cancer charities says that without urgent action, the UK’s cancer death rate will rise for the first time in decades.

NHS figures suggest tens of thousands fewer people started cancer treatment since the first lockdown compared to normal times.

One Cancer Voice says that the NHS needs more resources.

The government says cancer treatment remains a top priority and urges people to see their GP if they have symptoms.

Radio 1 Newsbeat has spoken exclusively to One Cancer Voice about the impact of coronavirus on cancer care.

The group of charities also wants to see more staff available to diagnose and treat cancer, with greater NHS access to private facilities in order to “clear the backlog”.

“We are calling on the government to invest more money in ensuring the backlog of cancer cases is reduced and eliminated,” says Michelle Mitchell, the boss of Cancer Research UK, which heads up One Cancer Voice.

“We could face, in this country today, the prospect of cancer survival reducing for the first time in decades. That’s why urgent action is required by the government.”

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Multiple studies suggest that fewer cancers were diagnosed last year, likely because of less screening.

Millions of colonoscopies, mammograms, lung scans, brain scans and other cancer screenings were suspended for several months as COVID-19 swamped medical care.

The NHS is facing what doctors fear is “a legal storm” of claims for compensation from patients who could not get cancer treatment during the pandemic.

Leading cancer surgeons are warning that patients who could not have surgery at the planned time, or a scan, or see their GP because of Covid-related disruption to services may sue if their cancer subsequently spread.

“I’m very concerned that patients will pursue legal action as a result of delays to them receiving cancer treatment during the pandemic,” said Prof Neil Mortensen, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons.

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