Is there a cancer timebomb in the UK?

In Wed 10th February’s Prime Ministers Questions, the Conservative MP Nicola Richards noted that many people are missing a cancer diagnosis because screenings have been suspended due to Covid. This was a rather matter-of-fact query for what ought to be a shocking outrage over a reckless disregard for public health.

Richards urged the PM to make the resumption of cancer screenings a “top priority” once restrictions begin to ease. That, I would argue, is simply not good enough. Why wait? Why not make it a top priority now? The NHS has been telling people consistently that they should not wait for Covid to go away if they have cancer worries. Why did Richards, then, in her question, not demand the PM apologise for suspending cancer screenings in the first place? Why not demand he give a specific date at which cancer screenings resume nationally and fully? Instead it was a gentle tickle of a question.

This monstrous disease has been upon us for decades longer than Covid-19.

This monstrous disease, cancer, in all of its foul forms, has been upon us for millennia, far longer and deadlier than Covid-19, and it deserves no break, no quarter, no chance to grow just because another threat suddenly exists. We have built up a formidable arsenal to fight this monster and it is plain wrong to ease up the pressure now. I don’t care what other disease comes along, nothing should pause the battle against cancer. So far as I’m concerned even if people around us were turning purple and popping like balloons from a new mystery virus, cancer services must continue regardless.

Cancer still exists.
No message like this has ever been given to the British public to keep cancer appointments going.

There is a cancer timebomb waiting to explode in the UK. The government led by Boris Johnson has enabled it and lit the fuse

Boris Johnson said the government is “worried” about people not coming forward as they normally would, and urges them to do so. And he bloody well should be worried. This is his fault. He’s allowed the machinery of anti-cancer to grind almost to a standstill. I had to wait 8 weeks for a cancer test that would normally have been available within 5 days. I could not even see a GP for months on end.

The government is not “worried” enough. I’d go so far as to say, they are quietly releived at any kind of non-Covid patient admissions reducing right now. It is deadly short termism.

By telling people to “Protect the NHS”, he knows very well that he is gaslighting thousands into putting off their cancer worries, leaving their issues for another, unspecified future date when it might be less trouble for the NHS to see them. In short, Johnson’s government is subtly discouraging people from tackling cancer and has made no apology for the suspension of cancer screenings, nor any assurance of them restarting immediately.

As somebody whose family has been blighted by cancer, I find it outrageous that screenings were in anyway suspended or drawn out.

The Prime Minister must remember: Cancer still exists. 

Moreover it leaves me wondering if there is a ticking timebomb of undiagnosed cancer now lurking under the surface of Britain, directly because of this poor decision making at the top. How many people have been guilted into not bothering a doctor with the blood in their stools, or the lump under their arm? How many have had to waive their usual regular screenings out of the sheer terror of leaving the house or not wishing to burden the system? How many have had treatments delayed or disrupted to the point they actually died as a result?

There is a simple fact the Prime Minister must remember: Cancer still exists. God willing, the Covid-19 pressure will ease, sooner rather than later – but in its place could be a tsunami of cancer patients and an horrific rise in the cancer death rate, that will bring shame upon those in charge and anger to the families affected.

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