THOUSANDS of women are living with breast cancer and have no idea, a charity has warned.
Almost 11,000 people haven’t been diagnosed with the disease thanks to delays and disruption from the pandemic, Breast Cancer Now believes.
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Thousands of women could have cancer and not know it, a charity thinksCredit: Alamy
The charity has warned lives will be lost after an estimated 10,7001 fewer people were diagnosed between March and December last year.
Around 1.2million fewer women had breast screenings, while 90,000 less patients were referred to specialists.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “The tragic cost of almost 11,000 missing breast cancer diagnoses is that in the worst cases, women could die from the disease.
“And looking ahead, while we cannot know the full impacts of the pandemic, what we do know now is that over the coming years the number of women coming forward could overwhelm our already over-stretched workforce.”
Some women reportedly told the charity they were too nervous to go to appointments out of fear of catching Covid.
And some also claimed their GPs were reluctant to risk sending them to local hospitals to avoid the bug.
Women over the age of 50 are offered free screenings by the NHS.
Dr Jeanette Dickson, President of The Royal College of Radiologists, said: “It is vital that those patients who missed screening last year – or who did not see their GP if they had possible symptoms – come forward. The NHS is open for business and the sooner we can diagnose cancer, the sooner we can treat it.
“The backlog of cases waiting will put even more pressure on stretched diagnostic teams and the cancer teams then responsible for tailoring and delivering treatment.
“The diagnostic and treatment workforce caring for breast cancer patients desperately needs more investment to ensure our future patients get the speedy care they deserve.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “While the vast majority of cancers detected through screening programmes are at a very early stage and so the clinical impact on patients is extremely low, thousands of invitations are being sent every month and people should book in for screening as soon as they are invited.
“If you feel a lump or any cancer symptom, please come forward and get checked.”
It comes after it was reported a side effect of the Covid vaccine could be mistaken for breast cancer, and doctors have warned women not to panic.
They said people may feel lumps around their armpits and chest area after getting a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.