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11,000 Britons could have undiagnosed breast cancer because of Covid


Almost 11,000 people could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer because of the pandemic, a charity has warned.

Fewer referrals and treatment delays combined with the pause to screening programmes resulted in 10,700 fewer people being diagnosed with breast cancer between March and December 2020 than expected.

Breast Cancer Now analysed a range of data to reach the figure, including the number of people starting their first treatment for breast cancer, the number of women screened each month and the length of time for which services were paused.

Baroness Morgan, chief executive of the charity, warned it was likely to cost some women their lives.

Even though services have resumed, the charity said they are only operating at around 60 per cent capacity due to the need for social distancing and infection control.

It warned of a forthcoming 'perfect storm', with health workers in imaging and diagnostic services under unprecedented pressure due to the pandemic, suggesting they were already 'chronically under-resourced'.

Breast screening services were paused for different amounts of time across the UK, including around four months in Scotland and five months in Wales in the last year.

While services were not officially paused in England, Breast Cancer Now said it still happened as hospitals turned their attention to fighting Covid.

Overall, it said nearly 1.2 million fewer women in the UK underwent breast screening between March and December.

Meanwhile, there was a 90,000 drop in referrals to a specialist for patients with possible symptoms of breast cancer in England between March and December.

The charity put the number of patients undiagnosed with breast cancer due to the pandemic at about 8,900 cases in England, 890 in Scotland, 687 in Wales and 248 in Northern Ireland.