A dramatic rise in bowel cancer cases is set to sweep in the UK in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, The Guardian report that the doctors and scientists have warned. They said they feared that the halting of screening for the condition will lead to thousands of people dying early from the disease.
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. Last year it caused the deaths of more than 16,000 people, a rate of more than 45 individuals a day. Tumours spread aggressively if left untreated but can be pinpointed – using special screening techniques – in their early stages. As a result, doctors can cut out tumours before they spread and patients often make complete recoveries.
However, since March, bowel cancer screening has been effectively halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report says the early detection of bowel cancer is carried by spotting blood in stool samples. Test kits are posted to men and women over the age of 60 – individuals who have the highest risk of getting bowel cancer, along with those who are obese or have family histories of the disease. Stool samples are then sent to test centres.
However, test kits for identifying individuals who have blood in their stools are no longer being sent out while endoscopy examinations have been stopped except for a handful of emergency cases, effectively halting all UK bowel cancer screening.
And that cessation of a life-saving service is now a major concern, said Professor Mark Lawler, of Queens University, Belfast. “If a person with bowel cancer is not identified early on, their tumour will continue to grow. It will develop until it reaches an advanced stage when it will be much, much more difficult to tackle.