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20 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Thousands of cancer patients will die early because of delayed treatment, study warns

By Samuel Horti

The coronavirus pandemic could cause nearly 5,000 cancer patients to die earlier than expected because of delays in their treatment, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has said.

Disruption to cancer treatment will lead to some people’s disease becoming incurable, it said. While delays will make no difference to the survival of patients with certain forms of cancer, others with stage one to three cancer, who would usually hope to be cured by surgery, may no longer survive.

“For people with prostate cancer, a delay of a few months won’t make much difference. But bowel cancer and bladder cancer are ones you wouldn’t want to leave,” said Clare Turnbull, a professor of cancer genomics at the institute. “If you delay for three months, 10 to 15 per cent of people who would get cured don’t, and if you leave it for six months then it’s 25 to 30 per cent.”

The study modelled the outcomes of the 95,000 cancer patients who undergo surgery in England every year. A three month delay would lead to the deaths of 4,755 more people than would normally be expected, it said.

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