Soaring numbers of women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, undermining their chances of survival, because of Covid’s disruption of NHS care, a charity has warned.
The number of women being diagnosed with the disease at stage 4 is as much as 48% higher in some months than expected, with the pandemic to blame, says Macmillan Cancer Support.
At the same time, fewer women are being confirmed as having breast cancer at stage 1, when their chances of responding well to treatment and living longer are much higher.
For example, in April 128 women were diagnosed at stage 4 – 28 (42%) more than were expected, based on pre-pandemic trends, Macmillan said. But in the same month 942 were diagnosed at stage 1, which was 164 (15%) fewer than expected.
Macmillan estimates that there is now a backlog of 47,300 people across the UK who have not yet been diagnosed with some form of cancer, as a direct result of Covid. They include people who could not access care in the usual way because many NHS services were scaled back, and also those who were too scared to seek help or did not want to add to the pressure the health service was already under. None have had a confirmed diagnosis of cancer, though some may be undergoing tests or screening.