26 November 2021

Mia Rosenblatt, Associate Director of Policy, Evidence and Influencing at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“Continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with winter pressures facing the NHS make for a ‘perfect storm’ and we’re deeply concerned about how this will impact breast cancer diagnoses and treatment in the months ahead.

“We estimate nearly 12,000 fewer people in the UK started treatment for breast cancer by the end of May 2021 compared with prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the long road ahead to address the shortfall of patients starting their first breast cancer treatment.1

“Early detection can stop women dying from the disease, making it critical that women living with undiagnosed breast cancer are found urgently and given treatment. Local systems must be equipped with capacity across diagnostics and treatment, and we still urgently need to see the Government invest in a strategic, fully funded long-term plan to tackle the rapidly growing crisis facing the cancer workforce so that prompt breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are guaranteed for all women.

“Until these steps are taken delayed diagnoses and treatment will continue to mean that, in the worst cases, some women could tragically die from breast cancer.”

Ends

Notes to editors

1. Calculated using a combination of data sets: The number of people starting their first treatment for breast cancer under the 31 day wait from decision to treat between March 2020 and May 2021 (compared to data from the same months in 2019) in England and Scotland; and based on urgent referrals and screening data in Wales; and estimates of the number of ‘missing’ cancer patients since March 2020 produced by the cancer registry in Northern Ireland. The figure breaks down across the UK as follows – 10,162 in England; 1,067 in Scotland; 620 in Wales; 30 in Northern Ireland.