Beating bowel cancer together

We’re concerned at Health Secretary’s warning of further disruption to cancer services

Wednesday 7 October 2020

We’re incredibly concerned about the Health and Social Care Secretary’s warning that continuing increases in COVID-19 could lead to further disruption to cancer services.

Matt Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday that controlling the virus would allow the NHS to "recover the treatment that we need to for cancer and other killer diseases."

Mr Hancock said: “It’s critical for everybody to understand that the best way to keep cancer services running is to suppress the disease, and the more the disease is under control the more we can both recover and continue with cancer treatments.  

“It's beholden on all of us to make the case that controlling this virus not only reduces the number of deaths directly from coronavirus but also enables us as best as possible to recover the treatment that we need to for cancer and other killer diseases.”

Our Chief Executive Genevieve Edwards has written to Mr Hancock to raise concerns about cancer services being impacted once again, and to seek guarantees that diagnostics, screening and treatment will continue in a protected environment. 

Genevieve Edwards said: "What's critical is that cancer patients and those experiencing symptoms can get the tests and treatment they need quickly. 

"We warned back in June that more than a million bowel cancer screening invitations had not been sent out due to the pandemic, leading to missed opportunities to identify the disease at an early stage, when it's easier to treat.  

"Although we're now beginning to see screening and diagnostic services resume in some places, there is a huge backlog which urgently needs to be addressed.

“We’re hugely disappointed with the Secretary of State’s comments, as the last thing cancer patients need right now is the threat of more disruption to vital health services and the possibility of many more lives lost needlessly to the disease." 

Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and the second biggest cancer killer. But it doesn’t have to be, as it’s treatable and curable if it’s diagnosed early. Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment has the best chance of working. We clearly understand the pandemic has had a massive impact on the NHS, but we urgently need to get back on track with screening programmes, diagnostics and treatment in order to save lives, with no further disruptions. 

People with bowel cancer are among the millions advised to shield because of coronavirus, which has come at great personal, mental and financial cost to many. While shielding advice has changed over time, some are continuing to shield, often forcing people to choose between their health and their livelihood. 

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