UK could experience up to 35,000 excess cancer-related deaths due to Covid-19

A consultant examining a mammogram
Credit: PA

Britain faces the prospect of up to 35,000 excess deaths within the next 12 months as a result of delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, research has suggested.

According to a study conducted by DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HDR UK) for Cancer, up to two million routine breast, bowel and cervical cancer screenings may have been missed throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Researchers examined data from eight hospital trusts in modelling outcomes depending upon how long the delays continue.

Sharing the results with BBC Panorama, researchers warned that a worst-case scenario could see 35,000 more people dying of cancer by this time next year.

DATA-CAN’s scientific lead, Professor Mark Lawler, told the programme: “Anecdotally, people have been telling us there were problems, but I think the critical thing was being able to actually have routine data from hospital trusts.”

NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, Peter Johnson, said the organisation is striving to restore cancer services to normal levels as quickly as possible.

He told the programme: “We’re working as fast as we can to put the services back together again, to restore the capacity and indeed to build more, so that we can deal with the people that have not been diagnosed during the time when the services have been running below 100%.

“I’m hoping that we will get back to where we need to be by the end of the year.”