Project details

Researcher: Professor Anna Gavin

Location: Queens University Belfast

Project cost: £229,126

The challenge

Although we don’t know the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer services and patients, we know that breast cancer treatment and screening have been disrupted, affecting access to patient services and support.

Building an accurate and detailed picture of how patients have been affected by the pandemic and learning from their experiences would help us to improve cancer services and care both now and in the future.

The science behind the project

Anna and her team are gathering information from approximately 1,100 patients in Northern Ireland who were diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to compare how these people were diagnosed and treated with another 1,250 patients diagnosed before the pandemic. Key questions are whether there were delays in diagnosing breast cancer, changes in diagnosis and treatment, and how this has affected patient survival.

The researchers are also looking at the number of breast cancer patients who were admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

Through an online survey and in-depth interviews with breast cancer patients across the UK and Ireland, they want to learn about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also measuring how closely patient care during this time followed the national and international guidance.

What difference will this project make?

This research has the potential to improve the care of breast cancer patients by identifying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on screening, diagnosis and treatment in Northern Ireland. The researchers hope that this new knowledge will help reduce the impact of service disruptions from COVID-19 or other pandemics in the future. Larger implications beyond Northern Ireland will also be explored by comparing study results with national and international data.

How many people could this project help?

In Northern Ireland, every year around 1,500 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s the equivalent of 28 people a week. But breast cancer services across the UK could also learn from this analysis. Every year in the UK 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer.

You can fill in the survey here.