Concerns have been raised over the number of cancer patients putting off seeking care during the coronavirus crisis.
The NHS has urged people not to sit on any worrying symptoms and seek help.
Macmillan Cancer Support has estimated that tens of thousands of people are yet to be diagnosed with cancer.
Coronavirus is having a huge impact on people living with cancer.
We’re doing all we can to meet the growing demand on our services. But we can't do it alone.
— Macmillan Cancer Support (@macmillancancer) June 5, 2020
As many as 50,000 people in the UK have cancer which has not yet been diagnosed because of the disruption caused by Covid-19, the charity said.
It raised concerns about backlogs of care in a new report titled The Forgotten C? The impact of Covid-19 on cancer care.
The backlog has been caused by a combination of factors including thousands of people not going to visit their GP, as well as a disruption to vital appointments, surgeries, and treatments during the first wave of the pandemic in the UK, the charity said.
Cancer must not become the 'forgotten 'C" during the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus has caused huge disruption to cancer care across the UK, with many seeing their treatment plans delayed, cancelled or changed, causing serious anxiety. pic.twitter.com/xQMCXu3Cs6
— Macmillan Cancer Support (@macmillancancer) May 28, 2020
Lynda Thomas, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Cancer care is at a crossroads and services cannot be shut down this winter.
“Because of the pandemic, we estimate that an additional 50,000 people are missing a cancer diagnosis and others are having their appointments disrupted once again.
“It is simply unacceptable that they face unbearable and unprecedented delays which could affect their chances of survival.
“Cancer doesn’t stop for Covid-19 and neither can our health services.
“Macmillan is doing whatever it takes to support people with cancer and our exhausted NHS staff but we need more.
“Governments need to promise every person with cancer that they won’t be forgotten and ensure cancer services are protected – come what may.”
The NHS has worked hard to maintain urgent cancer operations during the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the health service in England said Macmillan’s findings are “flawed” adding: “Because thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, cancer treatments are actually back to pre-pandemic levels.
“The majority of people who have not been diagnosed are people who have not come forward for checks and so our message is clear – if you have worrying symptoms you must get this checked – the NHS is ready and able to treat you.”
It comes as a new study found that there is minimal risk of catching Covid-19 as a result of an endoscopy.
Endoscopies allow medics to examine internal parts of the body- often helping them to diagnose some cancers at an early stage.
A new study, published in the journal Gut, tracked more than 6,000 patients who underwent endoscopies at 18 NHS hospitals since the start of pandemic.
None contracted Covid-19 as a result of the procedure, experts from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found.
Commenting on the report, Jude Diggins, deputy director of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Health and care services other than those treating Covid-19 patients must be maintained this winter to ensure that people living with long term, serious, health conditions like cancer do not suffer. ”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a priority throughout the pandemic – more than 200,000 people were treated for cancer during the first peak – and we urge people to come forward if they have symptoms.
“The NHS treated two non-Covid patients for every one Covid patient during the first wave of the pandemic and more than 870,000 people were referred for cancer checks between March and August.
“£3 billion has been allocated to the NHS to prepare for winter including funding for Nightingale hospital surge capacity and to upgrade A&E facilities so the NHS can continue to provide urgent care.”
– The Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 is open seven days a week from 8am-8pm.