The number of cancer cases increased from 276,979 in 2020–21 to 302,803 in 2021–2022, according to NHS England’s latest data.
But concerns have been raised regarding “missing” cancer cases as a result of people opting not to seek care to protect the NHS during COVID-19. Meanwhile, the significant backlog in the NHS is making it harder to get GP services and medical care.
The proportion of 25–49-year-olds who underwent a cervical cancer screening fell to an all-time low of 67% in 2022–2023. The percentage of those 50 to 64 who have cervical screenings is still only about 75%, which is less than it was in the early 2010s. However, the number of patients examined for colon cancer increased from 56% in 2013-14 to 72%.
Broadstone head of health & protection Brett Hill says: “Compared to pre-pandemic levels there were around 50,000 fewer cancer cases than we might have expected in 2020/21 and a further 25,000 in 2021/22. While incidence rates for new cancer diagnosis recovered slightly in 2021/22, they were still well below pre-pandemic levels, and suggest around 25,000 potential cancer cases missed out of vitally needed prompt diagnosis and treatment.
“It represents a ticking public health time bomb with these cases likely to present further down the line at a time when treatment will be more complex, more expensive, and unfortunately may have less favourable outcomes.
“The data also suggested that cervical screening coverage is beginning to decline across both the 25-49 age group and flatlining far below pre-pandemic levels among women aged 50-64. It is a positive that bowel cancer screening coverage is increasing rapidly among 60–74-year-olds.
“These screenings are crucial as it is so important to catch cancer as early as possible so that treatment is effective. It is little wonder we are seeing employers continuing to expand their provision of private healthcare support and health screening programmes so that workers are able to diagnose and treat any health issues as quickly as possible.”