Prostate cancer diagnoses in Wales plunged by over 26% during Pandemic
New official data from Public Health Wales has revealed a significant decrease in the diagnosis of major cancers in 2020 as the pandemic took hold.
The fall was most pronounced for prostate cancer, where the diagnosis rate fell by a staggering 26.5%.
As the world’s healthcare services pivoted to manage the COVID-19 crisis, diagnoses for five common cancers in Wales fell compared to previous years.
Breast and bowel cancer diagnoses also saw drops of 17.2% and 16.7% respectively, while lung cancer diagnoses saw a less dramatic, yet still notable, 10.7% decrease.
The decline in cancer diagnosis was closely tied with the onset of the first UK lockdown in March 2020, when healthcare services focused on dealing with COVID-19 patients, and the public was urged to stay at home.
An analysis of the five key cancers identified 2,214 fewer new cases diagnosed between April and December 2020 compared to the pre-pandemic average.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns on cancer diagnosis is shown for the first time today using high quality whole-population cancer registry data,” said Professor Dyfed Wyn Huws, Director of the Welsh Cancer Intelligence & Surveillance Unit (WCISU) at Public Health Wales.
Prof Huws explained that the focus of the NHS on dealing with the pandemic, the temporary halt in cancer screening services, and public reluctance to seek help from NHS due to stay-at-home measures, all contributed to a drop in cancer diagnoses.
This decline was especially seen in early-stage diagnoses, where treatment options are typically more varied and effective.
In an encouraging sign, the incidence of new diagnoses of several cancers began to recover once the pandemic restrictions were partially lifted, and non-Covid healthcare services were restarted.
The timeline of recovery varied by type of cancer, with female breast cancer returning to pre-pandemic levels by September 2020, and lung and bowel cancer recovering by July 2020.
However, the pandemic had long-lasting effects on some sectors. “The pause in screening services for some cancers resulted in a decrease in early stage diagnosis of cancers for which screening programmes are in place,” stated Dr Sharon Hillier, Director of Screening for Public Health Wales.
This is the first set of official statistics to be added to WCISU’s new cancer surveillance dashboard, which tracks incidence, survival, and mortality statistics for all cancers, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer.
This new tool provides a comprehensive view of the toll the pandemic has taken on cancer diagnosis in Wales, with a specific section dedicated to the five leading cancers – lung, breast, colorectal, ovary and prostate.
- The dashboard can be viewed here.
Prostate information and support click here.