'The forgotten C' - Patients fear pandemic is leaving cancer care in crisis

- Watch a full report from ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell.


Campaigners say the coronavirus pandemic is leading to a crisis in cancer care with fears that the "Big C is becoming the forgotten C".

Experts have warned of the fatal consequences of the cancer backlog, caused as the health service shifted its focus to the coronavirus pandemic.

In doctors' surgeries in the east, GP referrals to hospitals were down by a third in August compared to the previous year. 

It's estimated that 380 cases of cancer went undiagnosed every week because of delayed scans and screenings.

Oncologist Prof Pat Price, who founded the Catch up with Cancer campaign, said the pandemic could put cancer survival rates back by a decade.

"We need the Government to put as much energy and focus into the cancer backlog as they did into Covid," said Prof Price.

Some hospitals have agreements with private facilities to help with cancer care during the pandemic. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"They need to invest in services so that we can catch up with the backlog.

"We've estimated that we'll need services running at about 135% for six months - just to catch up. They're not even up to 100%.

We need a massive effort here otherwise patients are going to die.

Prof Pat Price

Yesterday, Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock insisted the NHS had made "significant strides" in reducing the cancer backlog.

Several hospitals have agreements with private providers to try and take the pressure off.

Some NHS cancer patients at the Norfolk and Norwich are now getting chemotherapy around the corner at the Spire Hospital.

Doctors have pleaded for people to keep seeking medical help. They say those with long term conditions must not become collateral damage in the fight against Covid.

On Monday, Ella Wolff, from Ashbocking in Suffolk, will start the latest round of treatment for the liver cancer which, at just 25, threatens her life.

But she'll have to pay for it. Her hopes of getting the so-called 'Delcath' treatment on an NHS trial were ended, she says, by the pressures of the pandemic.

"They said, because of Covid, there are no intensive care beds and therefore this treatment is not an option right now," said Ella.

"The whole situation is terrifying. People say they're getting bored of it. It's not just boring for the likes of me.

"If I get Covid, it's not so much that I might not survive it because my lungs are OK, but I will get kicked off the treatment and that's my last hope. It is honestly my last hope."

Ella is fundraising online to pay for the treatment she hopes will save her life. Almost £80,000 has been donated in a fortnight - but treble that is needed.

Her cancer journey has been a long one. It started two years ago when blurred vision turned out to be a tumour in her eye socket.

She's relied on the NHS in the past. Now she turns to the kindness of strangers to try and secure a future.

More details about Ella's fundraising can be found here.