'Open for business': Message to cancer patients after drop in chemotherapy appointments

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Thousands of people newly diagnosed with cancer could die within a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study from University College London.

Researchers have warned about a drop in GP referrals and a decrease in chemotherapy appointments.

Among the patients being treated is Beth Purvis. She had stage 4 bowel cancer and thought it had gone away only for something to reappear in her lung in January.

The one thing you know is that if a cancer is not treated your outcome is going to be much much worse.

Beth Purvis
Beth Purvis being treated by medics

Chemotherapy appointments have fallen 60 per cent since the lockdown.

I felt totally helpless and I felt that there was nothing I could do and nothing that could be done because all I could see was that the pandemic was taking over.

Beth Purvis
  • Research by University College London and Data-Can found an extra 6,270 newly diagnosed cancer patients could die this year because of the crisis

  • When you add in those already living with cancer that number of additional deaths rises to 17,915

That’s if we don’t do anything about it and what we’re trying to get the message across is that cancer treatments are open for business.

Dr Nicholas van AS, Medical Director, The Royal Marsden

The Royal Marsden is coordinating one of London’s new cancer hubs.

They’re not yet completely free of Covid-19 but are changing the way they work to limit infection.

We’ve accelerated scientific evidence which is allowing us to use therapy which was is delivered over one week instead of four weeks.

Dr Nicholas van AS, Medical Director, The Royal Marsden

We don’t know exactly where this crisis is going to go so we have to develop some resilience both at population level and at health system level.

Dr Charlie Davie, Data-Can

Beth Purvis has been offered a less intrusive alternative to surgery called Cyber-Knife which she usually would not have been eligible for.

I’m really please about the change. Operations involve a week’s stay in hospital whereas this is just trips into and out of hospital with only an hour at at time.

Beth Purvis