13 December 2021

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We fully support current efforts to roll out COVID-19 booster jabs by the end of December, recognising this as a key step to helping protect the public and NHS from further impacts of Omicron.

“Witnessing the immense pressures this new variant is placing on our tirelessly working, but already overstretched, NHS, we are however deeply concerned this will impact breast cancer. While some non-urgent GP appointments may be postponed until the new year, we can’t emphasise enough that it’s vital anyone who notices new or unusual breast changes contacts their GP promptly to get these checked – on the occasions it is breast cancer, the sooner it’s diagnosed the better the chance treatment is successful. COVID-19 safety measures are in place for appointments to reduce the risk of infection and help keep you safe.

“The government must urgently reiterate this public health message to get any potential breast cancer symptoms checked, and provide reassurance that these appointments will be prioritised so they get seen. This is critical if we are to avoid another huge drop in GP referrals, as we saw in the first wave of the pandemic. We cannot afford to add to the nearly 12,000 people in the UK who could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer* – as well as adding further pressure to the diagnostic workforce, this risks more women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage when it could be harder to treat.

“Looking to the months ahead, we are worried about the impact of rapidly rising COVID-19 cases on breast cancer treatment. If hospitalisation of people with COVID-19 considerably increases, the knock on effect will be delays, and at worst cancellations, of some cancer surgery and treatments. It’s critical the government does all it can to mitigate the increase in COVID-19 cases urgently, both for the benefit of the public and NHS right now, to avoid a ripple of devastating disruption for breast cancer further down the line.”

*Breast Cancer Now have announced that nearly 12,000 people in the UK could have been living with undiagnosed breast cancer at the end of May 2021, due to the impact of the pandemic on breast screening services and fewer women being referred to specialists with possible symptoms of the disease since March 2020