Jacqueline Curzon from Edgware in Greater London, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2018, had her chemotherapy treatment delayed due to the outbreak of covid-19. She has joined forces with Macmillan Cancer Support to speak out on behalf of people living with cancer in the capital and is calling for an urgent recovery plan for NHS cancer services, to ensure that cancer does not become the forgotten ‘C’ in this pandemic.
This campaign coincides with new figures, released last week by NHS England, that reveal the impact of coronavirus on cancer referrals and treatment across London, with 18,000 fewer people with suspected cancer seeing a specialist in May compared to the same period last year.
At the same time, the number of people starting cancer treatment has continued to drop significantly. In May, when the coronavirus pandemic had passed its ‘peak’, 35% fewer Londoners with cancer than expected started vital treatment to save, extend or improve their lives. This equates to around 1,000 fewer people than in the same period last year.
“Following a treatment break in early spring, a scan revealed that my tiny lung lesions had started to grow. The hateful, venomous, pancreatic cancer cells had marched off during my ‘treatment holiday,’ and taken occupation up north (in my lungs). This discovery coincided with the outbreak of coronavirus which meant that my treatment was further delayed. I therefore had a break of 4 months before chemo which was a delay I felt I could ill afford.
“To be left in this no man’s land was devastating. In my particular case, I am 90% likely to die from cancer, and only 5% likely to contract coronavirus. The focus was switched over to covid, but there was no need to lower my survival odds, or that of others with cancer. I do not complain that I will not reach old age, nor did I cry when they told me I would die early, for we will all certainly die. I just didn’t predict a sudden downturn like the one I have just been dealt, and not when I feel so healthy. I still have lots to live for.
“And I’m not alone. There are many people living in the capital waiting for referrals or facing delays to their treatment which is why I’m working with Macmillan to help raise awareness of the situation.”
Sara Bainbridge, Head of Policy & Influence at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Jacqueline’s story and these figures are a sobering demonstration of the serious impact coronavirus has had on cancer care in London.
“Last week’s mini-budget announcement was a missed opportunity to recognise the long-term health impacts of COVID-19. For three months now, we have called for an urgent recovery plan for NHS cancer services.
“The need to grow the cancer workforce and invest in essential equipment was the case long before the pandemic hit, and Covid-19 has only made a bad situation worse. There is a growing backlog of patients who need the care and attention of a workforce that’s already stretched to breaking point.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government commits to providing the NHS with everything it needs to catch up so that cancer does not become the forgotten ‘C’ during this pandemic. This must include resources, staffing, protective equipment and coronavirus testing to provide the timely and safe care that so many people are anxiously waiting for”.
During the pandemic, Macmillan has continued to support people with cancer, offering them practical, emotional and financial support. We rely almost entirely on public donations and our income has dropped significantly. To donate to Macmillan Cancer Support’s emergency appeal please go to: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/emergency or call 0300 1000 200. The free Macmillan Support Line is open seven days a week between 8am – 8pm, on 0808 808 00 00.