COVID-19 Hits Breast Cancer Screenings, Sparking Fresh Fear Over Cancer Deaths

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with around 12,000 women diagnosed with the condition every year. Unfortunately, this week an analysis of NHS England figures by Cancer Research UK has found that around 10,600 fewer women started treatment for breast cancer in 2020, compared to the year before.  

Survival for breast cancer is generally considered good, especially if you are diagnosed early in the disease. Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that around 98% of women who are diagnosed at stage 1 will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. This makes prompt detection and screening programs crucial to keeping deaths from breast cancer low.

Regrettably, breast cancer screening services were paused during the height of the pandemic in an effort to free up NHS resources and ensure the health service wasn’t overwhelmed. However, the result of this is catastrophic. Cancer charity, Breast Cancer Now, has estimated that almost a million British women have missed a breast cancer screening appointment due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has sparked fresh fears over the number of avoidable deaths that could occur due to later diagnosis and treatment. Dr Ajay Aggarwal, a consultant clinical oncologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust has also said that the backlog is ‘likely to worsen when considering the cumulative impact of the second wave’.

Lady Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, has said ‘governments and NHS health bodies across the UK must set out how the influx in demand for imaging and diagnostics will be met’. However, with the conventional breast cancer screening, a mammogram, taking as long as 30 minutes per appointment, it’s clear that there is a real need for alternative, faster and potentially less costly screening methods. This is where we believe that PanTum Detect – our liquid biopsy early detection technology – can be invaluable. 

The majority of cancers detected through screening programs are at a very early stage. However, PanTum Detect can also detect cancerous cells at the earliest stages of the disease, when it is most treatable. Our quick, non-invasive blood draw can be taken in just a few minutes, with results also being available much more rapidly. This could save the NHS valuable time and money while also tackling the backlog of screening cases at a faster rate than is possible using mammogram alone. 

PanTum Detect is the first universal early detection blood test. You can find out more about PanTum Detect by downloading our whitepaper. We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to key healthcare decision makers about how our technology can help support the NHS through the cancer crisis and save lives. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Resources:

https://rmdm.group/ 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jun/15/fears-england-breast-cancer-deaths-may-rise-covid-hits-screenings 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/30/charity-says-nearly-a-million-women-missed-breast-cancer-check 

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/survival 

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-screening-and-diagnosis-statistics#heading-Zero