Threat of new lockdowns sends shivers down my spine – we can’t let more cancer patients die

ALL this talk of new restrictions, tiers and local lockdowns is sending shivers down my spine.

I’m having flashbacks to full lockdown.

Forget fighting for loo roll and panic buying pasta, I’m having a full blown meltdown about cancer.

Not my cancer for a change, well not only mine.

I’m in full catastrophsing mode, worrying about what will happen if more people are put off going to see their GP.

What will happen if more people ignore the signs and symptoms of cancer for fear of going out, and catching Covid?

What will happen if people put off going to that appointment they had booked at the hospital to check a symptom that could be cancer?

More deaths, that’s what.

Sounds morbid and a bit blunt, but it’s the reality we face.

Yet again, grim stats have this week shown the true toll of coronavirus extends way beyond the virus itself.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that fatalities from major cancers at home went up by half in the past six months.

Prostate cancer deaths surged by 53 per cent, while 46 per cent more men were killed by bowel cancer.

Breast cancer deaths were up 47 per cent, while heart deaths rocketed by more than a quarter and more people died of Alzheimer’s at home.

We need to see more action from the Government, to protect cancer services and save lives

The report suggests yet again that worried people are staying away from the NHS – and missing out on potentially life-saving treatment.

That will only get worse if we plunge the country back into lockdown.

That’s not to say we don’t need to act – and now.

Infection rates are rising and more people are ending up in hospital, even if deaths aren’t surging at the same pace.

If that carries on and the NHS is forced to stop elective care again, we will be in a dire situation.


Matt Hancock recently warned that if we don’t stem the spread of coronavirus, cancer services will be compromised.

That’s just not good enough.

It’s predicted that up to 35,000 extra cancer deaths will be recorded this year as a result of the pandemic.

That’s 35,000 people who will die too soon.

We know what will happen if more people are put off getting help or don’t get the treatment they need.

Thousands more lives will be lost.

We’ve known of the collateral damage lockdown has caused to cancer patients for months.

In June, I was interviewing patients and experts about it for BBC Panorama.

Yet, all the Government seems to be doing is peddling the same message, Help Us, Help You.

It’s the campaign they launched a few weeks ago, encouraging people to seek help from their GP if they’re worried about a symptom that could be cancer.

It’s a really good message, but it just doesn’t seem to be working.

Every month we see urgent cancer referrals still aren’t back up to where they should be.

We need to see more action from the Government, to protect cancer services and save lives.

They need to come up with a plan to ring-fence cancer care and ensure that even in the face of this second wave of Covid-19 patients can still get the treatment and diagnoses they need.

It requires logistics on a monumental scale.


If they can whip up the Nightingale Hospitals in no time at all, why can’t they do the same for cancer?

They could start by using as many private hospitals as possible, turning them into cancer hubs.

We can’t be in a situation where staff and resources are diverted away from caring for cancer patients.

How can that be right? We shouldn’t be picking and choosing who gets access to care and yet that is exactly what happened.

No doubt, we were facing an unknown enemy in the shape of coronavirus when it struck at the start of the year.

So yes, no doubt that drastic action was needed if only to give us time to work out how to deal with Covid.

But, science is an incredible thing and we have many more answers now. And the truth is, it’s not as bad as we all thought it could have been.

Yes, many people have died, and each death is a tragedy.

But, if we continue to treat coronavirus like it’s the only threat to our health we will end up seeing many, many more families lose their loved ones.

We have to do something to stop the tidal wave of cancer deaths heading our way.

I’m not saying it’s an easy crisis to solve, but it’s urgent and needs addressing now with action not just words.

All I am asking is for people to burst their pandemic bubble for a second, to look beyond Covid.

Globally more than one million people have died from coronavirus to date.

Every single year more almost 10 million people die of cancer across the world – and it’s only going to get worse.

Yes, if we don’t control Covid the numbers will spiral, but we already know the dangers of cancer diagnosed too late and yet we seem to be shrugging our shoulders and accepting it.

One in two of us will get cancer at some point in our lifetimes, half again will die.

We must NEVER forget that more must be done – we cannot sit back and let more people needlessly die when cancer can be caught and treated.

We just want a fighting chance, is it too much to ask?

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