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New warnings on pandemic cancer care delays

Monday July 6th 2020

As many as 18,000 people may lose their lives to cancer because of treatment delays during the pandemic lockdown, according to the latest research, revealed today.

Health Data Research UK says the number of deaths could even reach 35,000.

Its analysis is due to feature tonight on a BBC Panorama programme.

Professor Mark Lawler, professor of digital health at Queen’s University Belfast and scientific director of Data-Can, said: “Initial data that we got was very worrying to us. Anecdotally, people have been telling us there were problems, but the critical thing was being able to actually have routine data from hospital trusts.”

Further research into the impact of the pandemic is to be undertaken by researchers at Cardiff University, King's College, London, and the University of Surrey, it has been announced.

Professor Kate Brain, from Cardiff, said: “From early on in the pandemic the ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ message, along with the halting of national cancer screening programmes, sent a strong message to the public that ‘cancer can wait’.

“It’s important that we now look at how this has affected people’s attitudes and behaviours to all aspects of cancer - from putting off visiting their GP with worrying symptoms to missed screening.

“We hope our research will help to mitigate any negative effects of the pandemic on cancer attitudes and behaviour. Cancer cannot wait - even in the midst of a pandemic."

* Surgeons say that Wales is far from ready to resume safe routine surgery.

Speaking to the country's Senedd Health Committee, Royal College of Surgeons Welsh director Richard Johnson said radical changes were needed to ensure fair access to care for patients.

He said afterwards: “We have a duty to patients. They have done their bit during the COVID crisis by obeying lockdown rules and protecting the NHS. We now need to get on and be able to offer them the treatment they need. Getting fair access to COVID-light sites across Wales is absolutely critical to that effort. Members of the Senedd will have heard that loud and clear at this morning’s session.”

* Other initiatives to improve cancer diagnosis have been announced.

At Glasgow University, researchers hope to use artificial intelligence to develop a precision diagnostic tool. The project has been awarded £3.7 million in grants.

In Finland, researchers today announced that they are using machine learning to create a comprehensive list of breast cancer risk factors.

The work at the University of Eastern Finland will seek to tease out the relationship between genetic and other risk factors. The project is being announced in the journal Scientific Reports.

Predicting breast cancer risk using interacting genetic and demographic factors and machine learning. Scientific Reports 6 July 2020

Tags: Cancer | Flu & Viruses | NHS | UK News

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