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News digest – calorie guidelines, reduced lung cancer referrals and COVID-19’s impact on cancer services

by PA Media Group | Analysis

19 September 2020

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Image was taken before the coronavirus pandemic.

Urgent lung cancer referrals down during lockdown

Of all cancer types, those with suspected lung cancer were the least likely to receive an urgent referral during lockdown, it has emerged. At the end of August, the number of people being sent for urgent tests was still only at 60% of pre-lockdown levels. Reasons for the reduced referral rates include fewer patients going to their GPs with coughs or breathing problems, and difficulties getting chest X-rays for patients during the pandemic. The Sun and our news report has more.

Childhood cancer survivor now works as a researcher on Cancer Research UK-funded trials

Diagnosed with leukaemia at 14, Catherine Pointer was inspired to become a scientist by one of her consultants. Now with a PhD in cancer research, she’s working on a Cancer Research UK-funded clinical trial and iscommitted to finding new treatment options for people with cancer. As reported in The Guardian, she said: “I want to see the day that children and young people going through cancer can come through the other side and be able to live well, not just survive with a lifetime of side effects from the treatment they had.”

We’ve recently written about children’s cancer on the blog as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month during September.

Food industry encouraged to cut excessive calories by 2024

Public Health England have published new voluntary calorie-reduction guidelines to help tackle obesity in the UK. Alongside salt reduction targets, Government advice will encourage the food industry to cut calories in unhealthy products by up to 20%. The guidelines focus specifically on meal options for eating out, takeaway and delivery, with research suggesting people consume an average of 200 more calories a day when eating meals they have not prepared themselves.

Blood test could help guide breast cancer treatment

The test can identify a variety of rare mutations in advanced breast cancer, allowing doctors to match patients with targeted treatments. This could also eliminate the need for invasive biopsies. Researchers say the test is now reliable enough to be offered to patients and is currently awaiting approval for routine use. The Times and our press release has the story.

Latest NHS drug decisions

  • A myeloma maintenance treatment received an initial rejection for NHS use in England. More in our news report
  • A targeted drug for lung cancer has been approved for NHS use in England. Our news report has the details of the decision.

And finally…

Six months after the UK entered lockdown, we now have a clearer picture of how COVID-19 has affected cancer services. Reduced screening and delays in diagnosis and referral are just some of the trends seen over the course of pandemic. The number of patients starting cancer treatment in England also dropped during lockdown. However, data now shows cancer services are beginning to get back on track. Get the full breakdown on our blog.

Scarlett Sangster is a writer for PA Media Group