By Alex Glenn •
Published: 05 Oct 2021 • 8:20
Nearly 12,000 women could have undiagnosed breast cancer after missing screening due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the pandemic, one and half million women have missed out on breast cancer screenings. Breast Cancer Now, believe that around 12,000 women could have undetected breast cancer due to the missed screenings.
The breast cancer screening service was halted for four months during the first lockdown. The service though is still struggling to catch up and the backlog of patients has grown.
Breast Cancer Now’s Baroness Delyth Morgan has said that investment is needed urgently for “the chronically understaffed imaging and diagnostic workforce”.
The Baroness said: “A year ago we reported with concern that almost one million women had potentially missed breast screening due to services being paused in the first wave of the pandemic,
“Unfortunately, despite our hardworking NHS staff, screening services running at reduced capacity means that now 1.5 million fewer women have been screened – a staggering 50 per cent increase since services restarted.
“Women with breast cancer are continuing to pay the price due to the impact of the pandemic and, in the worst cases, delayed diagnoses could mean that some women die of this devastating disease.
“Quickly finding and treating those with undiagnosed breast cancer must be a priority, and governments across the UK must urgently ensure there is sufficient investment to do this – these women do not have time to wait.”
The screening services are working flat out but they are still under-resourced.
President of the Royal College of Radiologists, Dr Jeanette Dickson, explained: “Breast services, including screening, are working flat out to make sure patients are seen as quickly as possible, and we cannot urge people enough: if you have any worrying symptoms, please seek help from your GP. If you are given a screening appointment, please take it.
“But breast imaging and treatment services were massively under-resourced even before the pandemic hit.
“Now, screening teams are trying to fit two years’ worth of appointments into one to catch up with a backlog of millions, while struggling with long-standing staff shortages and woefully substandard facilities, as well as slower working due to Covid restrictions.
“If the Government is serious about improving breast cancer outcomes and tackling the backlog then in the short term it has to continue investing in scanners and IT connectivity, as well as push through stalled service improvements.
“But ultimately, we cannot get away from the need to invest in people. The NHS needs more imaging and oncology staff to ensure future breast cancer patients get the care they deserve.”
According to NHS England, new funding is being made available, but this only tackles part of the problem. A spokesperson said: “The pandemic has inevitably meant that some patient services have been disrupted, which is why the NHS in England is investing more than £70 million in additional funding for screening capacity, so people can get the checks they need.
“Extra weekend and evening clinics will help every woman who needs a screen to access one, and the NHS in England has also been offering open invitations to get screened, so if you’re invited for a screening appointment, please come forward and attend.”
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Originally from the UK, Alex is based in Almeria and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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