CORONAVIRUS could lead to 50,000 additional cancer deaths, a leading professor has warned.
Professor Karol Sikora said the Covid-19 crisis is having a major impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment. The chief medical officer of Rutherford Health and ex-director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) cancer programme described the patients affected as “collateral damage in the war against coronavirus”.
Prof Sikora wrote for the Daily Mail: “The cancer diagnostic system has all but seized up.
“Another 400 cancers a week are, it is estimated, being missed because breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening has been suspended.
“For any of these patients, delay can be a death sentence.
“In addition, the NHS has cancelled most routine surgeries for three months.
“Thats tens of thousands of people who must endure further pain and distress as they wait for the operation or procedure that might dramatically improve their quality of life.
“All of these individuals are collateral damage in the war against coronavirus.”
Prof Sikora said the number of cancer patients being referred by GPs for urgent hospital appointments has fallen by 75 percent amid the coronavirus outbreak.
He added: “If this continues for six months, I suspect that in the years to come there will be at least 50,000 excess cancer deaths. That is a terrifying number.”
Prof Sikora said the latest coronavirus figures suggest the UK could be reaching the end of the pandemic.
He continued: “What this should mean is that the NHS quickly resumes its bread-and-butter work: The routine operations, the cardiograms and the cancer tests.”
The cancer expert suggested coronavirus patients could be taken to Londons NHS Nightingale Hospital, which has been mostly unused so far, and other new hospitals around the country.
He added: “Abandoning Britains non-coronavirus patients as we are doing is unacceptable – and a stain on us all.”
It comes as there have been 133,495 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, with the death toll at 18,100.
Englands chief medical officer has warned the UK is going to have to live with social distancing for at least the rest of the year.
Speaking during Wednesdays Downing Street press conference, Professor Chris Whitty said some measures would need to stay in place until there was a vaccine or a drug to treat the virus.
Prof Whitty said: “In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally.
“A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed… or highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people.
“Until we have those, and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small and I think we should be realistic about that, we’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment.
“But until that point, that is what we will have to do but it will be the best combination that maximises the outlooks.
“But it’s going to take a long time and I think we need to be aware of that.”