Undiagnosed and Untreated Bowel Cancer Due to COVID-19

Following a new study, Oxford University have found that the number of people diagnosed with bowel cancer in England has fallen severely since the first coronavirus lockdown.

Over 3,500 fewer patients than expected were diagnosed with bowel cancer in England between April and October 2020.  If detected at an early stage, bowel cancer is more likely to be curable and the research suggests that many patients, whose diagnosis has yet to be made, may die unnecessarily.

Compared with an average month in 2019 and April 2020 the results showed that:

  • The monthly number of referrals by GP’s to hospital clinics for investigations of possible bowel cancer reduced by 63% (from 36,274 to 13,440)
  • The number of colonoscopies performed fell by 92% (from 46,441 to 3,484)
  • The monthly number of people with confirmed bowel cancer referred for treatment fell by 22% (from 2,781 to 2,158) and the number of operations performed fell by 31% (from 2,003 to 1,378)

This is the first study to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the diagnosis and management of bowel cancer across England.

Early diagnosis is the key for the best treatment rates in bowel cancer, but this study shows that the serious disruption that COVID-19 has caused has had a detrimental effect on patient survival.

The NHS have changed pathways to create capacity and staff are working incredibly hard to ensure rapid treatment.  The NHS continues to be open for anyone worried about symptoms, pandemic or not.

For the full article please read https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-01-14-thousands-patients-may-have-undiagnosed-and-untreated-bowel-cancer-due-covid-19