Jim Shannon MP
Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health
The impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer outcomes is potentially devasting for patients and their families.
Hard pressed clinicians and staff are doing everything they can to diagnose and treat as many patients as possible and the aim must be to increase screening and treatment levels beyond pre-COVID levels.
During the pandemic, the halting of lung cancer screening pilots and restricted access to diagnostics contributed to a 75% drop in urgent lung cancer referrals.1
The Public Health Minister confirmed in the House of Commons that these figures have not yet recovered by stating: “sustained fall in people coming forward for lung checks, with the number of people seeking checks at only 76% of pre-pandemic levels.2“
Impact of delayed treatment
Any further delays to referrals or treatment will have a devastating impact on patients. The Annals of Oncology reported that the greatest rates of death arise following even modest delays to surgery in aggressive cancers, with >30% reduction in survival at six months and >17% reduction in survival at three months for patients with stage two or three lung cancer.3
During the pandemic, the halting of lung cancer screening pilots and restricted access to diagnostics contributed to a 75% drop in urgent lung cancer referrals.
This doesn’t consider the impact of delays on functional outcomes – quality of life, complications due to progression, greater economic burden and premature mortality and morbidity. The impact of treatment delay is probably far greater for patients and society than we are currently seeing.
The NHS Long Term Plan and other government initiatives contain ambitions to reduce the number of lung cancer deaths. The All-Party Parliament Group for Respiratory Health has launched an inquiry into lung cancer outcomes, but it will take a collaborative effort to accelerate lung cancer treatment and management to improve lung cancer outcomes.
 Elizabeth Gourd, “Lung cancer control in the UK hit badly by COVID-19 pandemic”, The Lancet, Volume 21, Issue 12, P1559, December 1st, 2020. Last accessed January 2021
 Official Report, “COVID-19 Lung Cancer Pathway” WH 2nd December, 2020
 A Sud, ME Jones, J Broggio, et al, “Collateral damage: the impact on outcomes from cancer surgery of the COVID-19 pandemic”, Annals of Oncology, ESMO, Volume 31, Issue 8, P1065-1074, August 1st, 2020, Last accessed January 2021