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Therese Raphael

Coronavirus Has a Massive Impact on Cancer Care

New figures from the U.K.’s National Health Service highlight the problems being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A doctor checks on patient notes.

A doctor checks on patient notes.

Photographer: Victoria Jones 

It has been a while since I thought back to that week in 2012 when I received news that three close family members had been diagnosed with cancer — two in my household. Newly published figures on how Covid-19 has delayed cancer referrals and treatments brought the memory back. I’m grateful those cases didn’t arise in the middle of a pandemic, but alarmed at the implications for those fighting cancer now. 

New data from the U.K.’s National Health Service showed how the focus on Covid-19 has been impacting cancer care. Urgent cancer referrals fell by 60% in April compared with the same month last year. That’s a major concern given how important early diagnosis is to successful treatment and cancer survival rates. This, and other recent data, are a grim reminder that the NHS’s much-lauded response to the pandemic has come at a cost.