From the Journals

Heavy toll from ongoing cancer referral delays


Another study, similar estimates

For the second study, Clare Turnbull, PhD, Institute of Cancer Research, London, and colleagues obtained age- and stage-stratified 10-year cancer survival estimates for patients in England diagnosed with 20 common tumor types between 2008 and 2017.

They also gathered data on cancer diagnoses made via urgent 2-week referrals between 2013 and 2016. They estimate that 6,281 patients were diagnosed with cancer of stages I-III per month.

Of those, 1,691 (27%) would die within 10 years of their diagnosis, they found.

They then calculated that delays in 2-week referrals during a 3-month lockdown would lead to an average delay in presentation of 2 months per patient.

A resulting 25% backlog in referrals would lead to 181 additional lives and 3,316 life-years lost. With a 75% backlog in referrals, an additional 276 lives and 5,075 life-years would be lost.

The team says that additional diagnostic delays spread over 3-8 months after the lockdown could increase the impact of a 25% backlog in referrals to 401 additional lives and 14,873 life-years lost.

For a 75% backlog in referrals, the additional lives lost would rise to 1,231, and the number of life-years lost would reach 22,635.

“Substantial additional deaths from diagnostic delays on top of those expected from delays in presentation – because many people are simply too afraid to visit their GP or hospital – are likely, especially if rapid provision of additional capacity, including technical provision and increased staffing, is not forthcoming,” Turnbull commented in a statement.

The study by Aggarwal and colleagues was funded by the U.K. Research and Innovation Economic and Social Research Council. Several of the researchers were supported by Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Now. Turnbull reports receiving support from the Movember Foundation.

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