Cancer screening in the UK has been suspended since the introduction of national lockdown in March 2020. The objective of this research is to evaluate the impact of delays in cancer diagnosis on survival outcomes.

This study is based on a population-based model in which the researchers used NHS cancer registration and hospital administrative datasets. The patients were aged 15-84 years and diagnosed with colorectal, oesophageal, lung, and breast cancer between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2012, and the follow-up data was until December 31, 2015. The researchers used a routes-to-diagnostic framework to determine the impact of diagnostic delays over 12 months, starting from March 16, 2020, and up to 5 years after the diagnosis.

The research team collected data for 32,583 patients with breast cancer, 6,744 with oesophageal cancer, 29,305 with lung cancer, and 24,975 with colorectal cancer. A 7.9–9.6% rise in deaths was noticed due to breast cancer. The number of fatalities increased for colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and oesophageal cancer from 15.3–16.6%, 4.8–5.3%, and 5.8–6.0%, respectively.

The research concluded a substantial increase in the number of avoidable cancer deaths across the UK because of diagnostic delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.