A recent study conducted by UCL and DATA-CAN: Health Data Research Hub for cancer, has revealed that the COVID-19 emergency in England could result in 20% more deaths of people who have been newly diagnosed with cancer in the next 12 months.
The study was published last week and focused on the impact of the pandemic on the mortality rates in people with cancer and uses data from over 3.5 million patients in England.
The study estimates that before the pandemic, around 31,354 newly diagnosed cancer patients would die within a year in England, but because of the emergency, they anticipate at least 6,270 additional deaths. This number could rise to an estimated 17,915 additional deaths if all people currently living with cancer were considered.
The researchers used weekly data from major cancer centres and found there was a stark 76% decrease in urgent referrals from GPs and a 60% decrease in chemotherapy appointments compared to pre-pandemic levels. They also used publicly available data from the US and showed that America could face an additional 33,890 deaths in newly diagnosed cancer patients over the next 12 months.
The global COVID-19 emergency has affected a large proportion of the cancer clinical pathway, including changes to the diagnosis, treatment protocols and changes in patient behaviour to seek medical attention.
Professor Mark Lawler, Scientific lead for DATA-CAN said they used publicly available data from the UK and US and the results are “concerning”. He also stated that he believes countries need to rapidly understand how the emergency is affecting cancer outcomes, or else we risk adding cancer and other underlying health conditions to the death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers added that the national data on mortality and cancer services must be made available urgently to enable scientists to understand which disease combinations pose the biggest risk and inform how health services should be prioritised.