We may not be able to see it yet, but the impact of delays in early cancer detection techniques due to Covid-19 will have a direct impact on recovery rates and patient outcomes.
With the NHS under immense pressure from the second wave of the pandemic, longer wait times for diagnostic testing and many people afraid to visit their GP with cancer concerns for fear of being exposed to Covid-19, there is very real concern how many cancer cases are being missed at the present time – something we could pay for dearly in the future.
Dr. David Crosby, Head of Prevention and Early Detection Research at Cancer Research UK explained that ‘all too often, patients are being diagnosed at a late stage, where their cancer is deeply rooted and requires significant intervention, often with poor outcomes’. And that’s in pre-pandemic times. For example, research has shown that 9 in 10 patients with bowel cancer will live five years or longer if it is detected at the earliest stage, but only 1 in 10 will survive their cancer for 5 years or more if it has metastasized by the time it is diagnosed.
Pancreatic cancer diagnosis tells a similar story. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer rarely shows symptoms until it has metastasized, and around 80% of patients are not diagnosed until this stage. Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate of just 1%, and sadly, the average patient diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer will only live for approximately 12 months following diagnosis.
These shocking statistics highlight the crucial importance of Early Detection and the part that it plays in patient outcomes. Not only are survival rates severely affected, but so too is the patient’s quality of life. Late diagnosis can result in more intensive treatment being required – something which has far-reaching implications including unpleasant and potentially long-term side effects, social isolation and financial worries. Certain treatments for cancer also increase the risk of other serious long-term conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis and further cancers. It could be possible to avoid this scenario, should early detection become the norm.
And not everyone is prepared to wait to discover their fate. Speaking to inews.co.uk, Julie Heathcote lied to her GP in order to get the mammogram that detected her breast cancer. This ensured she received the routine screening several years before she turned 50, which is the usual age at which women are invited for their first mammogram. Her decision to lie was based on her mother having had breast cancer young, and her friend being diagnosed with the disease. With no lumps, bumps or other symptoms, Julie is certain she wouldn’t be here today had it not been for Early Detection of her cancer.
The WHO recognises that ‘by developing effective strategies to identify cancer early, lives can be saved’. What if a simple blood test could tell you, with 97.5% certainty, whether you have cancerous cells within your body? The PanTum Detect test can. This fast and affordable Early Detection blood test is the world’s first screening test that can detect all types of cancer at a very early stage, enabling patients to tackle their disease before it advances. Patients may not even be presenting with symptoms of cancer when it is detected. Early identification and diagnosis could mean simpler treatment, fewer negative effects on patient quality of life and a better prognosis for the future.
PanTum Detect is currently available at the Centre for Health and Human Performance, 76 Harley Street, Marylebone, London W1G 7HH.