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Covid impact on cancer revealed

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By Donald Turvill
Front
Covid impact on cancer revealed

CANCER diagnoses have dropped significantly in the region despite projections that prevalence of the disease is on the rise.

Concerns over an increased number of undiagnosed patients have been flagged-up as new figures from Public Health Scotland show the number of cancer diagnoses locally dropped by more than a fifth in the 11 months to November 29 last year, compared to the same period in 2019.

A total of 1502 cases were detected in 2019, compared to 1187 in 2020.

Last week South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth warned that a failure to get the region’s care backlog under control could lead to a “cancer crisis”.

He said the effects of the backlog, which has arisen as a result of the pandemic, would be exacerbated by a reported 13 per cent rise in cancer incidence between 2009 and 2019 – and added that thousands will be left in a “race against time” to get treatment.

This week Mr Smyth alluded to the contradiction between the statistics, pointing out that “an increase in the number of people who have cancer should mean a rise in the number of diagnoses”.

“But instead,” he added, “there has been a dramatic fall in diagnosis during the pandemic as fewer people came forward and screening services were delayed or put on hold altogether.

“There are hundreds of missing patients in our region and there needs to be an urgent plan to address this crisis, including rapid diagnostic centres and a catch-up plan for screenings by increasing staff and processing capacity to clear the backlog within a year.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on cancer services, but the problems were there before covid struck.

“Our fantastic and hard-working NHS has been doing everything it can over these past 18 months, in terrible and unprecedented circumstances, but now we need action.”

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