DELAYING cancer treatment by just a few weeks during the pandemic can more than double the risk of dying for some patients, experts have found.
Researchers who analysed studies involving 1.2 million patients across seven types of cancer warned any disruption to NHS services will have a devastating impact.
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They found a month delay in starting radiotherapy for one type of throat cancer increased death odds by 117 per cent.
Dr Jodie Moffat, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is why swift treatment is so important.”
She added: “Different cancers behave in different ways but for some, just a matter of weeks can be enough for the cancer to progress.
“Worryingly, the latest England cancer waiting time data for August shows that targets for patients beginning treatment within 62 days of an urgent cancer referral are still being missed.”
The findings are published in The BMJ.
Macmillan Cancer Support estimates 50,000 people in the UK have cancer that has not been diagnosed as a result of Covid.
Sara Bainbridge, from the charity, said: “These deeply concerning findings highlight how delays to cancer treatment of just a matter of weeks can have a real impact on cancer patients’ chances of survival.
“This research should serve as a stark and timely reminder of the critical importance of protecting cancer services, from diagnosis through to treatment, as we enter the second wave of coronavirus.
“These are real people’s lives and cancer cannot be the ‘Forgotten C’ as this pandemic continues.”
She called on the Government to ring fence NHS cancer staff and resources to keep them running during the winter.
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