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This study shows that there are widespread impacts of this pandemic that are not just linked to the coronavirus infection alone. The Macmillan Cancer Support calls this the "forgotten C" of the corona pandemic crisis and has expressed concern over the findings of this study. This study concludes that 80 percent of the extra deaths at this time would be due to newly detected cancers among those who already have other ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.
Dr. Alvina Lal, lead author of the study, a lecturer in health data analytics at UCL's institute of health informatics, in her statement said, "Our findings demonstrate the serious potential for unintended consequences of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may negatively impact on patients with cancer and other underlying health conditions." She added that the NHS needs to identify the patients who are affected by cancer and are vulnerable at this critical time. Their care should be prioritized so that risk to their health is reduced, she said.
Prof. Mark Lawler, the lead author from Queen's University Belfast and Data-Can, said, "The results are concerning. We believe countries need to understand how the emergency is affecting cancer outcomes rapidly, otherwise, we risk adding cancer and other underlying health conditions to the escalating death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic." Experts
NHS England is spreading awareness among the general population to report and ask for help in case of any worrying symptoms or serious ill-health. They have asked people to dial 999 or visit the A&E or the GP without delay. The NHS hopes that cancer-related surgeries would soon be resumed and hopes to cover the backlog suffered over the past couple of months due to patients putting off the hospital visits and surgeries.
Prof. Peter Johnson, an oncologist from NHS England, also said there are serious implications of delayed diagnosis and treatment of cancer. He urged people to get a suspicious lump or mole checked as soon as possible. He said there are "COVID free cancer hubs" in 19 regions of England, and these services can be availed for diagnosis and treatment of cancers.
Prof. Harry Hemingway, senior author of the paper and director of UCL's institute of health informatics, in his statement, said, "The overall impact of the Covid-19 emergency on deaths in cancer patients could be substantial. There are many factors operating here, including rapid changes to diagnosis and treatment protocols, social distancing measures, changes in people's behavior in seeking medical attention, and [the] economic impact of Covid-19, as well as deaths due to Covid-19 infection."
Lynda Thomas, Macmillan's chief executive, added, "This research shows the possible extent of the direct and collateral damage caused by coronavirus on the health of our nation and to the lives of people living with conditions like cancer. It's extremely worrying that we are likely to see an increase in deaths of people newly diagnosed with cancer. We are calling on all governments to stop cancer becoming the forgotten C and urgently ensure cancer services are getting everything they need to recover and catch up as quickly as possible from the disruption of the pandemic. This means having the right staff, protective equipment, and testing to deliver safe care."
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has asked the general public to seek health care when needed, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week also announced that healthcare services are to be normalized and restored as soon as possible. Journal reference: Lai, Alvina & Pasea, Laura & Denaxas, Spiros & Chang, Wai Hoong & Pillay, Deenan & Noursadeghi, Mahdad & Linch, David & Hughes, Derralynn & Forster, Martin & Turnbull, Clare & Boyd, Kathryn & Foster, Graham & Cooper, Matt & Pritchard-Jones, Kathy & Sullivan, Richard & Davie, Charles & Hall, Geoff. (2020). Estimating excess mortality in people with cancer and multimorbidity in the COVID-19 emergency. 10.13140/RG.2.2.34254.82242. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340984562_Estimating_excess_mortality_in_people_with_cancer_and_multimorbidity_in_the_COVID-19_emergency
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