Why was I forgotten? – The question on every cancer patient’s mind during the pandemic
By Lilly May Seddon
There are ever-growing concerns about the long-term impacts that COVID-19 has had and will continue to have on cancer patients. During the first year of the pandemic, it is estimated that millions of screenings were delayed when all but essential NHS services were halted during lockdown; resulting in people receiving a cancer diagnosis much later than they should have.
One of the many patients this has affected, Destiny Wade, an oncology nurse, has received the heart-breaking news that she has cervical cancer. As a result of this, Destiny will never be able to become a mother. This delay in diagnosis could have potentially been if Miss Wade’s smear test was not postponed during lockdown.
In March 2020, Destiny was due to have her smear test, like she did every three years. However, she received a call from her GP confirming the appointment had been cancelled due to COVID-19. During this call, Destiny confirmed with her GP that she had been experiencing mild symptoms. The GP reportedly replied: “You are only 27, you have a low risk of having cervical cancer, so you are not a priority.” Destiny was advised that she could get an appointment within 6 months.
Fast forward to May 2020 and the bleeding had become a constant concern for Destiny. She decided to attend A&E due to the severity of the bleeding.
This decision is thought to have been a hard one for Destiny as she states: “I remember sitting in the car and thinking they would laugh in my face because who attends A&E for bleeding?”
During her A&E attendance, Miss Wade underwent an internal examination and was informed that she had a tumour the size of a tennis ball. As anyone can imagine, receiving this news would be heartbreaking enough, but to make it even worse, Miss Wade learned that the radiotherapy would weaken her womb so much that she would never be able to carry a child.
Destiny is determined to beat her cancer and says; “The main thing is if you are not happy with someone’s diagnosis, if you feel like something’s wrong, don’t let it stop you asking for a second opinion. I think it’s really sad that something like a smear test is classed as a routine appointment.”
MacMillan has also been conducting substantial research into the drastic effects of COVID-19 and cancer diagnosis and their findings are shocking.
Estimations show that there are around 50,000 ‘missing’ diagnoses, which means that compared to a similar time frame in recent years, 50,000 fewer people have received a cancer diagnosis
The statistics which MacMillan have found show that around half (50%) of all those currently having cancer treatment experienced disruption such as delays, changes, or cancellations including:
- More than one in four (29%) currently having treatment have had at least one test, scan or treatment delayed or rescheduled
- One in 13 (8%) have had to travel to a different hospital than usual for their care
- One in 17 (6%) have had a test, scan or treatment cancelled
- One in six (17%) have had to go for a test, scan, or treatment on their own against their wishes.
Fears for cancer patients have also been expressed by healthcare experts as England toughens up COVID restrictions. These concerns have been sparked by staggering new figures which reveal that the number of patients participating in clinical trials plummeted by virtually 60% during the first year of the global pandemic.
COVID-19 has impacted the ability of healthcare professionals in running clinical trials and this has led to denying thousands of cancer patients to have access to the latest treatment options as well as delaying the development of many cutting-edge drugs.
New and appalling figures show that just under 40,000 cancer patients in England were “robbed” of the chance to take part in life-saving trials during the first year of the coronavirus crisis, according to a report by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).
It is clear, that the global pandemic has had a severe impact on the care and treatment of cancer patient’s during the last 2 years and it is, unfortunately, very likely to be impacted for years to come due to the ever-growing backlogs within the NHS; even medical experts have warned that ”more people will die” due to extensive delays.
Professor Pat Price, who is a leading consultant clinical oncologist, recently expressed her concerns regarding the impact that COVID-19 is having on cancer patients, stating that “Cancer patients don’t have the luxury of time if we don’t act more people will die at home who don’t need to.”
The words of Pat Price do highlight severity of the impact caused by COVID19… How many more lives will be lost before action is taken?
Lilly May Seddon is an Assistant Litigation Executive at Fletchers Solicitors.