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What can i do if my cancer treatment was delayed due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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As we all know, due to the pandemic, many departments in hospitals have ceased from operating. Testing people for various health issues has ceased, non-emergency surgeries have all been put on hold as well as many other treatments. As the days go by, we hear more and more in the news of the negative effects Coronavirus has had on many people’s lives.

Recently in the news we have frequently heard about cancer patients, who’s treatment has been delayed or cancelled and this has had a significant impact, not just on their physical health but also their mental wellbeing. This has also had a detrimental impact upon their friends and families.

Many cancer patients were waiting to start treatment and to start a new chapter in their lives, but this was taken away from them due to the pandemic, Coronavirus. Many patients were waiting to be tested and/or diagnosed. Many patients’ lives have been put on hold. With many appointments cancelled, there are cancer patients who are yet to start treatment and if restrictions are not lifted soon death rates of cancer patients could increase.

Are patients at risk of a delayed diagnosis?

Yes. We are always being told by professional healthcare advisers, the sooner the diagnosis, the sooner a cure can be found.

Delays in most types of cancer can cause negative impacts upon the patient’s outcome. They may end up requiring more treatment, a worse prognosis where the cancer has developed further or could end up losing their lives.

Are patients at risk if cancer treatment or surgeries are delayed?

In some types of cancer, delay in treatment could prove to be detrimental.

There are patients who have been diagnosed with stage one to three cancer and have been recommended surgery, which may cure them. However, we know, thousands of surgeries have been cancelled due to Coronavirus. A delay in removing a tumour could mean they are no longer curable. In some types of cancer, the short delay may not prove to be of risk, but in some forms of cancer, others could die sooner. Due to the delay, there could be more deaths of cancer than anticipated.

It is said, there are significantly more risks in delays of treatment with some forms of cancers than others. Patients with bowel and bladder cancers, if left untreated can prove to be dangerous. A delay in three months could leave 10-15% who could not be cured, if left untreated for six months, this could increase to 25-30%. It goes without saying, that there is of course a detrimental impact in all types of cancer if treatments and/or surgeries are being delayed. In fact, many women who are at their last stages of breast cancer have had their lives shortened as they were not able to undertake chemotherapy and scans to monitor their progress. 

It is said, as many as 18,000 people could die over the next year as a result of delayed cancer treatment. In other words, a lot of patients will move from the ‘cure’ to the ‘non-cure’ category.

Can my cancer treatment continue?

Some, but not all.  Some treatment can continue with limitations, restrictions and changes as to how the treatment may be carried out. This will depend upon a case by case basis.

We all know, visiting the hospital for treatment can expose you to risks of contracting and being exposed to Coronavirus.

You would need to get in touch with your healthcare team who will explain what the changes will be to your treatment and where the treatment will be carried out as this may now be a different location. Please see link below for further information.

Other consequences of delayed cancer treatment due to covid-19

We all recognise the physical impact, but there is also a significant psychological impact of the delay around the uncertainty of what happens next. Dealing with coronavirus itself has had a significant detrimental impact on many people’s psychological health. Many, if not all cancer patients, will have had their anxiety heightened due to the changes to their treatments. All cancer patients will know cancer is a tough physical journey as well as a tough psychological journey.

Under normal circumstances each cancer patient would have a set journey on how to overcome the disease and every patient deserves a clear strategy plan. No cancer patient should be treated any less than a patient who has contracted coronavirus.

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