University of Oxford researchers from the UK Colorectal Cancer Intelligence Hub have been investigating how the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer patients has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NIHR Oxford BRC-supported researchers at the Nuffield Department of Population Health carried out the analysis with NHS Digital and experts from other UK universities and hospitals.
Results based on data collected by Public Health England and NHS Digital from English hospitals throughout 2019 and up to 31 October 2020 were published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology. They show that the number of new diagnoses of colorectal cancer fell by 22% at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 cases and surgical treatment rates fell by 31%.
By the end of October, the number of new diagnoses, had returned to similar levels in 2019, but there remained a backlog, with around 3,500 fewer cancers being found than would have been expected, suggesting that many patients have missed out on early diagnosis and lifesaving treatment.
The research team are continuing to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer patients.