Tenovus Cancer Care responds to recent Public Health Wales study on significant reductions in cancer diagnoses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major disruption to cancer diagnoses, putting many people at risk.
The new study by Public Health Wales, highlighting significant reductions in cancer diagnoses in 2020 compared to 2019, is deeply worrying. It affirms that there are potentially thousands of people with undiagnosed and untreated cancer in Wales today, many of whom would have been caught during routine cancer screening which was paused for months during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When cancer is diagnosed at a later or more advanced stage, it can be more difficult to treat and can have a huge impact on a person’s treatment and prognosis. This is particularly true of lung cancer.
While the decrease in lung cancer diagnoses is less startling than those of breast and bowel cancer, it is still the biggest cancer killer in Wales and one where early detection is key to ending the disturbing trend in survival rates.
Tenovus Cancer Care has repeatedly called for the introduction of lung health checks to be made available for targeted groups across Wales. This will provide the most at-risk people access to a low dose lung CT scan which would help identify concerns that would warrant further diagnostic tests. These checks would also help reduce the impact of lung cancer associated with smoking through referrals to smoking cessation services.
We are waiting for a positive outcome to the UK Screening Committee’s draft recommendations to introduce targeted screening for lung cancer in people aged between 55 and 74 with a history of smoking. We then expect Welsh Government and NHS colleagues in Wales to move at pace to develop a framework to roll out lung screening here in Wales.
In the meantime, we urgently need to see the wider cancer community getting to grips with the ongoing issues affecting appropriate referrals and optimised screening programmes so that we do not add additional delay into people’s pathways. Most importantly, it is vital people who are diagnosed later as a result of these issues are given the help and support they need whatever their circumstances.