Coronavirus - increasing cancer fatalities?
AFTER THE NHS ANNOUNCED all non-urgent hospital appointments would be cancelled, to stop the NHS collapsing under the strain due to the Coronavirus outbreak. An obvious question to ask is, if thousands of people are having their cancer screenings or check-ups cancelled, will there be an increase in the number of people diagnosed with cancer, once the National Health Service resumes these appointments?
It's a well-known fact that an early cancer diagnosis can be treated more successfully, due to preventing its spread or it getting too large. According to the Cancer Research website, for example, more than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive, compared to around 15% diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease. Another example is lung cancer, where 80% of patients survive if diagnosed early, compared to just 15%. Again more than 9 in 10 bowel cancer patients survive the disease if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
Sure it's a depressing question to ask, especially during the most draconian lockdown in British history, where Boris Johnson has said people should only go out for essential goods, medical needs or brief exercise. In addition, patients have been ordered to stay away from doctors' surgeries, in the latest dramatic move to tackle the crisis. GPs are telling everyone, not to walk into the practice for appointments. We are even being urged not to phone them as they are so overstretched and instead rely on online resources. Yet, how many times have we been told to never Google our symptoms and seek professional advice?
So it is a fair question to ask, if the Coronavirus will undo the enormous progress made on cancer survival rates across the many different types of cancer, like breast, colon, melanoma of the skin and prostate. The higher survival figures are partly explained by a high percentage of prostate and breast cancer patients being diagnosed at an earlier stage. Around two million women usually undergo screening in the UK every year, using Mammograms and 50,000 are diagnosed with cancer alone. Currently, all women aged between 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP, are normally invited automatically for breast cancer screening.
There are around 367,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year, that's around 1,000 every day. Cancers like breast, prostate, lung and bowel together accounted for more than half (53%) of all new cancer cases last year.
Combined incidence rates for all cancers are highest in older people, the same group who are most vulnerable to the Coronavirus. The same exact group who have been instructed to stay at home.
Now Britain has entered its first week of Coronavirus lockdown, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to stay at home and only leave the house for essential food shopping and exercise once a day. Military vehicles have been seen delivering a much-needed batch of protective face masks to frontline NHS nurses and doctors. So let's hope everyone now works together, to stop the spread of this virus, and in doing so, save thousands of lives, not just from Coronavirus but from cancer in the future too!
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