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The impact on outcomes from cancer surgery of the COVID-19 pandemic

By May 20, 2020National News

The NHS must ensure cancer-surgery delays do not cost more lives than the number of Covid-19 patients saved, the Institute of Cancer Research says.

In some cancers, a three-month delay could make the difference between a tumour being curable or not, Prof Clare Turnbull said.

And her modelling suggested delaying surgery risked thousands of additional deaths.

NHS England is already urging people to seek help for worrying symptoms.


  • Lockdown and re-deployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant disruption to cancer diagnosis and management.
  • 3-month delay to surgery across all Stage 1-3 cancers is estimated to cause >4,700 attributable deaths per year in England.
  • The impact on life years lost of 3-6 month to surgery for Stage 1-3 disease varies widely between tumour types.
  • Strategic prioritisation of patients for diagnostics and surgery has potential to mitigate deaths attributable to delays.
  • The resource-adjusted benefit in avoiding delay in cancer management compares favourably to admission for COVID-19 infection. 

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