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DHBs Must Prioritise Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment To Avoid Preventable Deaths

New evidence from overseas shows that lockdowns lead to half as many cancer diagnoses as usual. It also shows that a three-month delay in cancer diagnosis and treatment could result in 400 additional deaths from cancer.

“While some parts of our health system have been working well during lockdown, fewer people have seen their GP, there has been fewer operations, fewer scans, and fewer diagnostic tests. This will mean some cancer diagnoses have been delayed,” says Cancer Society medical director Dr Chris Jackson.

The Cancer Control Agency has issued advice about scans, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments that can be safely delivered during lockdown level 3 and 4.

However, the Cancer Society remains concerned.

“We have heard that some DHBs have returned patients to their GP because they haven’t been able to deliver certain operations or procedures, or that diagnostic tests have not been able to be done.”

“Fewer people are seeing their GPs so that means symptoms are going ignored. These delays will cost lives.”

The Cancer Society recommends that patients with symptoms see their GP.

“Healthcare is essential no matter the level of lockdown. Your appointment might be over the phone, or face-to-face but if you’re unwell you still need medical attention.”

“As the health system ramps up after level 4 lockdown, we must prioritise cancer diagnosis and treatment in order to avoid preventable deaths, DHBs must make sure this happens,” says Jackson.

“We support the lockdown which has kept people with cancer safe from COVID, but cancer diagnosis and surgery must now proceed with urgency in order to prevent non-COVID cancer casualties.”

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