In a report published on Thursday, the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) said that improvements in survival rates that were occurring before the pandemic are now in jeopardy.
It estimates that delays in diagnosis caused by lockdown measures may result in a drop of up to 5.3 percent in five-year survival in England, from 17.6 percent for patients diagnosed between 2014 and 2018, to around 12.3 percent for those diagnosed during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
This could lead to more than 2,500 extra deaths in the UK, the report said.
Professor Robert Rintoul, chair of the UKLCC’s clinical advisory group, said: “Prior to the pandemic, real progress was being made in raising five-year survival rates. But COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on early diagnosis of lung cancer and has compromised our target of driving up five-year UK survival to 25 percent by 2025.”
He said that lung cancer patients have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“Government guidance to stay at home with a cough, reluctance to engage with health care services during lockdown, and pressures on already over-burdened health services, have inevitably resulted in a fall in referrals and increase in late-stage presentations of the disease,” he said, adding that urgent action is needed to get back on track.
The UKLCC has called for a fully-funded screening programme for lung cancer across the UK.
It is also calling for twice-yearly national and regional public awareness campaigns and a dedicated lung cancer helpline, to ensure easy access to support and diagnosis for patients.
UKLCC Chair Martin Grange said it has been “heartbreaking to see the hard work and achievements of those involved in lung cancer care impacted so enormously by COVID-19.”
“We must rally together and ensure that the pre-pandemic progress in lung cancer outcomes was not in vain,” he said.
According to a report from University College London published in September, a lack of face-to-face doctor visits in the UK since the start of the pandemic may result in 10,000 unnecessary deaths due to cancer.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that England and Wales registered 20,823 more deaths than the five-year average in the past 18 weeks. Only 11,531 deaths involved COVID-19.
Consultant Oncologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Buckingham Medical School Professor Karol Sikora, a world-leading cancer expert, told The Epoch Times last week, “What seems to be happening is that there is a higher death rate from the backlog and lack of access to health care.”
“It’s a national scandal,” he said.
Owen Evans, Jack Phillips, and PA contributed to this report.