A leading UK cancer specialist calls for urgent measures to prevent potential ‘cancer catastrophe’
A leading UK cancer specialist has appealed to the government to commit every resource possible to prevent a cancer catastrophe developing in the UK in the coming months.
Following the Prime Minister’s 50-page ‘blueprint’ to a phased recovery from Covid-19, Professor Karol Sikora (pictured), chief medical officer at Rutherford Health and the former director of the WHO’s cancer programme, called for urgent action as it emerged that new cancer patients are still not flowing through the system despite the efforts of the NHS and the government.
Professor Karol Sikora stated: “Whilst the Prime Minister’s recovery strategy from Covid-19 is very welcome and offers us some hope on exiting the current crisis, we must address the acute challenges we face in cancer care. We are still not seeing a recovery in the alarming drop in referrals over the past month. This is losing us precious time against cancer. Information from new biopsies last week confirmed that diagnoses is still less than 10% of normal during this time of year. That is frankly a terrifying figure.
“We simply cannot sustain this. Care for downstream cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy remain distressingly low. We are inadvertently heading towards a ‘peak demand’ which will come from July onwards, and it could completely overwhelm our cancer services.
“New cancer patients are still too scared to access GP services or go to hospitals. We need to move away from the fear of Covid-19 to providing all patients with the confidence they need to access treatment. The best way to do this is by testing for the virus with the PCR test to create ‘Covid-free zones’ for cancer surgery and treatments in hospitals. This will allow us to diagnose and treat in volume once more.
“An upward stage migration of cancer with poorer outcomes is now increasingly inevitable. We could end up in the disaster scenario whereby more people die from cancer than Covid-19 as a consequence of this pandemic.
“We must act now to prevent that from happening. We can only do this by creating Covid-free zones and ramping up screening and diagnoses. We also need good interaction at senior level between independent cancer networks and the NHS to increase diagnostic and treatment capacity. Not doing this will result in us sleepwalking straight into another public health catastrophe.”
For more information on the Rutherford Cancer Centres, please visit: http://www.therutherford.com