LATEST headlines alarmingly proclaim the postponement of urgent cancer operations across hospitals in the capital and beyond during this third lockdown, for which there is not a concrete end date as yet.

Since March 2020, the NHS has been under unprecedented levels of pressure due to Covid-19. As a result of finite resources, routine care like hip and knee surgery became the first to suffer delays.

While this shift is understandable even to those in significant pain, delaying cancer care can have a significant impact upon survival.

Data collated by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) shows that since March 2020 cancer services have suffered as a result of the pandemic. One study estimates that delays to diagnosis and treatment will result in an extra 3,000 cancer deaths in England over the next five years.

Hold ups in cancer operations are partly due to theatre staff being redeployed to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) as well as patients undergoing cancer operations often requiring ICU admission after the procedure and ICU beds being occupied.

Yet against this bleak backdrop there is light. The NHS has spent over £160 million investing in almost 50 new innovations that not only improve access to cancer care, but also patient safety. These include remote consultations, home based treatments, and drugs which have a reduced effect on the immune system. Cancer care units have been redesigned in a “Covid-friendly” manner, to decrease any potential chance of becoming infected. All of these are aimed at making sure those with cancer receive treatment, while reducing the number of safer hospital visits.

A further ray of hope is heralded by research funded by Cancer Research UK showing that those with solid organ tumours are able to mount the same immune response against Covid as otherwise healthy individuals, although those with blood cancers are less able to do so. This will come as heart-warming news to many of those shielding and feeling afraid.

The diagnosis of cancer starts with symptoms called red flags, which may suggest an underlying malignancy. Irrespective of the pandemic, I urge any person who thinks they may have cancer to contact their GP as a matter of urgency, to discuss their symptoms. You are not more likely to become infected with Covid by going to your normal surgery, so please do not let this put you off. It may just save your life.