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Evidence of the impact of COVID-19 across the cancer pathway: key stats

Cancer Research UK have published some useful and informative statistics relating to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer services. The current headlines are:

  • There has been an effect of earlier pauses to screening programmes, with fewer patients beginning treatment for cancer following a referral from cancer screening (e.g. down 50% for Apr2020-Jan2021 vs Apr2019-Jan2020 in England). 
  • Monthly numbers of urgent suspected cancer referrals were overall back to around/almost pre-covid levels at the end of 2020 but have fallen very slightly for Jan 2021 and substantial variation persists by cancer type (with lung and urological USC referrals particularly still below pre-covid levels). There is no sign that accumulated backlog (of around 400 thousand potential cases in the UK) is coming through pathways yet.
  • Although slightly better than earlier months, there were around 6-9 times more (500- 800% more) patients on waiting lists for key diagnostic tests who’ve been waiting for 6 or more weeks at the end of January (vs. Jan 2020) in England.
  • Nearly 44k fewer patients started treatment for cancer during Apr-Jan in the UK vs Apr-Jan 2019/20 (this figure is borne out by rapid registration/pathology as proxy incidence data). The most recent monthly data show that numbers of patients beginning treatment for cancer were coming back to around pre-covid levels, however the January 2021 figures show another decrease occurring with the second lockdown.

covid_and_cancer_key_stats_120321_0.pdf (cancerresearchuk.org)