Don’t let breast cancer patients become ‘collateral damage’ in pandemic, warn MPs

BREAST CANCER patients risk becoming “collateral damage” in the fight against Covid as Yorkshire MPs challenge the Government to do more to reduce the nationwide backlog of cases.

Women are missing bout on lifesaving breast cancer checks due to the Covid crisis, MPs warn.

Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan cited research by Breast Cancer Now which says almost one million women in the UK have missed NHS routine screenings as a direct consequence of the pandemic.

Meanwhile Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock claims there are “frontline workers who have had their cancer screen test delayed, only to find out months later that their cancer has spread”.

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Both have now spoken out in a Parliamentary debate that saw Health Minister Jo Churchill concede that “clinical decisions had to be made in March” when the original lockdown was imposed and that she understood “the uncertainty and anxiety” that treatment delays are causing to patients on top of their original cancer diagnosis.

Health minister Jo Churchill is also a cancer survivor.

She went on: “As soon as it was possible, however, the NHS was charged with restoring cancer services as quickly as possible, and it has risen to that challenge. I do not want Covid-19 to be the derailer; I want us to seize some opportunities that have come about.”

But Mr Khan warned the Government that patients requiring “major surgery have not always been fortunate enough to receive it” after treatment of cancer was switched from Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, a major Covid hub, to the smaller hospital in Pontefract.

The Conservative MP said delays to operations were “a consequence of a lack of recovery beds with ventilation or of there being no ICU beds, if the surgery encountered complications, or because the surgery was simply too risky”

He went on: “Aftercare — whether palliative care or chemotherapy — has also been disrupted by the lockdown. Those who suffer from breast cancer should not be collateral damage in the battle against covid. Worryingly, that has been the case for virtually all forms of cancer treatment.

Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan has spoken out over cancer checks.we

“The Health Data Research hub for cancer has warned that, as a result of the pandemic, there could be an additional 18,000 deaths of people with cancer.”

Earlier Ms Peacock said that nearly 10,000 women are waiting for a breast cancer screening in Barnsley alone, and the total for the whole of South Yorkshire was in excess of 30,000.

“We have a postcode lottery in this country when it comes to breast cancer screening and mortality rates,” she said.

She said a Public Health England report found that the number of empty consultant breast radiologist posts in the country doubled between 2010 and 2016, and that all breast radiologists in Yorkshire and the Humber are due to retire by 2025.

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