Macmillan Wales has warned that the latest cancer waiting times data suggests that far too few people are being tested or treated for cancer due to coronavirus.
The warning comes as the latest data for August shows a 23% year-on-year drop in the number of people entering the system for cancer diagnosis, and an 18% drop in those starting treatment for cancer when compared to the same month last year.
The figures also suggest that the month-by-month improvement seen since the first peak of coronavirus hit in April, has also now stalled with a larger drop in people entering the system in August than in July.
Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales said:
“These latest figures demonstrate how coronavirus continues to place huge pressures on the cancer care system in Wales.
“This 23% reduction in referrals compared to August last year means there remains a worrying gap between the number of people being tested or treated for cancer in Wales, and the numbers we would expect to see.
“This raises significant concern for the future. If the figures could not return to a relative normal in August – which was a month with a significantly lower level of coronavirus cases – then how will they look when we consider where we are now?
“Wales has a national lockdown, the highest level of coronavirus cases recorded since the start of the pandemic and winter pressures are upon us – it really does question how well our cancer services will be able to cope.
“We must learn the lessons from the past. At the peak of the first wave of coronavirus in April, Wales saw a frightening 63% reduction in the numbers of people being referred for cancer diagnosis – a reduction that if repeated could leave thousands more people with an undiagnosed or untreated cancer.
“Cancer must not become the forgotten C of this crisis. If it is then thousands will see their prognosis and chances of survival worsen.
“The Welsh Government must now commit to prioritising and ringfencing cancer services during the second wave of this awful pandemic.
“We also want to encourage anyone who notices new or sustained changes to their, or a loved one’s health, to please contact their GP. Local GP practices may be working in a different way, but please be assured that they continue to be open through all this.”
At a time when the charity’s income faces a significant drop, Macmillan is doing everything it can to be there for people with cancer during the pandemic, who need it now more than ever.
For information, support or just a chat, call Macmillan free on 0808 808 0000.
To help Macmillan continue to be there for people with cancer when they need it more than ever, do something amazing today and call 0300 1000 200.