Whatever stage cancer is at, vaccination makes sense. Catching skin cancer early to prevent immunity reducing treatment will also help.
The coronavirus pandemic has challenged healthcare systems across the globe. Even though the UK is in an improved position, hidden impacts need more recovery time.
Elective care almost ceased in places during the worst of the pandemic and reduced in every region. Millions of visits, tests and operations were delayed, or cancelled, to free resources for Covid-19 patients.
Cancer care of all types suffered from this, including skin cancer. The fall in diagnosis and treatment of existing cases had an impact, as did a reduction in screening programs and individual decisions.
A proportion of people chose to avoid medical visits, understandable but this can have consequences. Early treatment is vital for most cancers, otherwise treatment may become more invasive, or no longer viable.
Assessing The Damage
Studies have been carried out to assess the change in support for cancer patients but this can vary geographically. Neither has the pandemic been consistent, with conclusions reached in autumn 2020 set aside by a further wave.
Comparing February 2020 to February 2021, we know that only 69% of patients started their cancer treatment within the maximum 62 day target. At the more serious treatment end, 11% less people had cancer surgery.
During the same period, 370,000 fewer people with suspected cancer saw a specialist. Although there were thankfully still stage 1 diagnoses across cancer types, the number reduced by 33% year on year.
This fall in early diagnosis is the factor which could bring a rapid rise in serious cases in the future. In October 2020, Macmillan Cancer Support estimated 18 months, at 110% capacity, to catch up on missing cancer diagnoses.
With another Covid crisis since in the winter of 2020/21, this will worsen. NHS providers believe they could need three to five years at some hospitals, to treat all cancer patients and eliminate the backlog.
Separate figures for skin cancer are not always collated but the proportions are understood and reasonable data available. Estimates suggest that more than 100,000 people may have missed out on diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Correcting The Curve
We are all proud of the support offered during the pandemic by health care professionals, who can not be blamed for the profound effect this had in other areas. They also continue to work hard to solve the issue.
NHS and private medical staff did their utmost to continue cancer care during the pandemic. A national cancer services recovery program was put together in December 2020, although then affected by events.
All of us must now play our part, not least with skin cancer, a disease with an excellent response to early treatment. We need to check our own skin regularly and where there are concerns, see a consultant as soon as possible.
Public Health England have urged anyone with possible symptoms to get them checked out immediately, as have Macmillan. Being treated early supports our own health, reduces care and frees resources for others.
If you have any concerns about your skin, please get in touch. Specialist clinics such as ours offer diagnosis and skin cancer treatment in a safe environment, along with any advice, or support you need.