Dr. John McLaughlin raised concerns about the’substantial decline’ in childhood cancer diagnosis during the first wave.

Oxford University researchers examined the incidence of breast cancer in the under-25s between February 2015 and August 2015. This is in comparison to those who had been diagnosed in the preceding three years. 

According to them, there was an overall 17% drop in cases. This would indicate that 80 more were being detected. 

The number of brain or central nervous system-related cancers has declined by 38%, while the rate for blood cancers has fallen 28%. 

Cancer survival rates may ‘go backwards’ due to the large number of people who need care. Charities warn.

Britons were instructed to “stay home” to help the NHS during the first wave. This resulted to millions of patients not coming forward to receive a variety of scans, tests, and appointments.

The above graph shows the percentage drop in cancer diagnoses in children during the first wave, compared to the same period over the previous three years

Below is a graph showing the percentage decrease in the number of children diagnosed with cancer during the first wave compared to that in the preceding three years.

The National Cancer Research Institute festival (NCRI), the UK’s biggest cancer conference, will present an abstract of the study.

Over the last six-and-a half months, 380 cases of cancer were found in children under 25.

This means that in the same three-year period, 460 cases have been identified. 

Researchers found that children diagnosed with the pandemic had a significantly higher likelihood of needing intensive care (ICU support) before they were given their diagnosis. This suggests they were more sick by the time they were finally diagnosed. 

Signs and symptoms of cancer in children — what to watch out for

Children are very unlikely to get cancer.

However, each year around 1,600 such cases are reported in the under-15s.

Cancer Research UK lists the symptoms and signs to look out for.

These are the items they list:

  • The inability to urinate or the presence of blood in your urine.
  • Unidentified swelling, lump or firmness anywhere on the body.
  • Swelling or stomach pain that doesn’t go away
  • Long-lasting back or bone pain
  • Seizures, mood changes and behavior;
  • They are persistent and do not disappear.
  • Frequent or unexplained bruising, or a rash or red or purple areas that cannot be explained.
  • Unusual paleness;
  • Feeling exhausted all the time
  • Flu-like symptoms and frequent infections
  • Unexplained vomiting (being sick);
  • Unexplained extreme heat or excessive sweating
  • Feeling breathless
  • Photos that show unusual or altered eye reflections. 

Researchers believe that cancers develop at an accelerating rate. Any significant decrease in the detection rate suggests that some cases may be missed.

The symptoms of this condition include inability to urinate, blood in the urine and an undiagnosed lump. Persistent headaches. 

According to the Oxford study, scientists concluded that the Covid pandemic had led to a significant reduction in the detection of childhood, teenage, and young adult cancers during the first wave. There was also an increase in ICU admissions for cancer-related conditions, which suggested a more serious baseline condition. 

Oxford University’s Dr Defne Satci is a child-health expert who participated in the study.

“We know from experience that Covid caused delays in diagnosing and treating many cancer patients. We wanted to find out how this pandemic affected the services for children with cancer.

[Co-]Julia HippisleyCox, lead researcher said that she found more children admitted to intensive care before they were diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic.

This could have happened because these children had waited longer for a doctor to diagnose them and were therefore more sick.

This study, which was combined with lower cancer diagnosis rates in the first wave of the cohort of patients suggests that Covid-19 could have played a significant role in early detection in these cases.

“As we rebuild from the pandemic it is vital that children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer as soon as possible.

Kate Collins, the chief executive officer of Teenage Cancer Trust said that there had been limited evidence regarding the effects of the pandemic upon the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in children and adolescents.

“Too many young adults with cancer are overlooked or forgotten, particularly in data collection. This makes them inaccessible in the system.

“Even before pandemics, we knew that the path for young people to diagnose could be complicated and long. It is possible to save your life by getting diagnosed early.

“The fact that the pandemic has delayed diagnosis of cancer is alarming. It is crucial to fully understand the causes and how it impacts children and young adults with the disease. What they are looking for in the health care services.

The NHS has the longest ever backlog of patients in its history. Some 5.8million people are waiting for hospital treatment in England alone.

A September report that was damning concluded it would take over a decade for England to eliminate the backlog of cancer cases.

Research done by the Institute for Public Policy Research, and the CF consultancy on health showed that 369,000 more people received treatment for cancer than was expected during the worst of the pandemic.

Cancer Research UK said that the current backlog in care could cause cancer survival rates to drop.

A spokesperson for the NHS stated that the partial data did not show the extent of the NHS’s cancer services provided for children by its staff during the pandemic. However, overall treatment and referral numbers for children are back at their normal levels.

“The NHS continues to be open and available for you, so it is vital that anyone with symptoms of cancer come forward to get tested.