Scotland’s only cancer research charity, Worldwide Cancer Research, has expressed fears
over how many more people could die from cancer in Scotland as a result of COVID-19.
The charity first raised fears of this a few weeks ago, after Scotland’s chief interim medical
officer, Dr Gregor Smith, revealed alarming stats demonstrating a significant drop in GP
urgent cancer referrals.
Now, new evidence from University of College London (UCL) and DATA-CN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer, shows that almost 18,000 more people could die from cancer over the next year in England and Northern Ireland alone due to the impact of COVID-19.
According to the evidence, the pandemic has not only impacted cancer services and
treatments but has also caused people to delay notifying their doctor when they may have
signs or symptoms of cancer due to fears of infection.
Dr Matt Lam, Science Communications Manager at Worldwide Cancer Research said:
“This research looked only at England and Northern Ireland but there’s absolutely no reason why this prediction wouldn’t be the same for Scotland, too.
We were right to be alarmed two weeks ago when we heard of the 72% drop in GP urgent cancer referrals. We encourage everyone to follow the advice of NHS Scotland and contact their doctor if they are at all worried about the signs or symptoms of cancer.”
From its base in Edinburgh, Worldwide Cancer Research backs the brightest minds in
science to start new cancer cures throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Since 1979,
the charity has funded over £200million worth of research in over 30 countries.
Cancer deaths in Scotland currently stand at 44 people per day. Dr Matt Lam added: “It’s
evident that this figure is going to increase if delays in diagnosing new cancers increase and delays in treatments worsen. It’s important to remember that when caught early, cancer treatment is more likely to be successful.”
The three most common cancers in Scotland are lung, breast and bowel cancer. Recent
statistics show that one in four (25.5%) people diagnosed with one of these cancers in
Scotland are diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage 1) (2017-18).
This is an increase from 23.3% in 2010-11. Dr Matt Lam added: “This is a promising trajectory for Scotland and one that will be affected if people do not continue to seek advice from their GP if they experience symptoms.”
The NHS remains open for people with new concerning symptoms not linked to COVID-19.
Various steps have been taken including the creation of new cancer hubs across the country allowing people to receive certain procedures in a COVID free environment.
Remote diagnoses are also being made between surgeon and patient via video consultation to limit face-to-face contact.
Dr Matt Lam continued: “We hope that people in Scotland continue to take their health
seriously and look after themselves first and foremost. Cancer won’t stop during or after
COVID-19 – and neither should we. This pandemic, like cancer, is tearing us apart. But here at Worldwide Cancer Research, we know research will bring us back together.”
With research comes hope. For more information about Worldwide Cancer Research or to
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