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Impact of COVID-19 on Colorectal Cancer diagnoses and treatments

Visual depiction of colorectal cancer

Researchers from the UK Colorectal Cancer Intelligence Hub within the Nuffield Department of Population Health have been working with NHS Digital and a team of experts from other UK universities and hospitals, to undertake analyses to investigate how the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer patients has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results based on data collected by Public Health England and NHS Digital from English hospitals throughout 2019 and up to 31 October 2020 were published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology on 14 January 2021. The results show that the number of new diagnoses of colorectal cancer fell by 22% at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 cases and surgical treatment rates fell by 31%. (Read the press release).

By the end of October, the number of new diagnoses, had returned to similar levels to 2019, but there remained a backlog with around 3,500 fewer cancers being found than would be expected, suggesting that many patients have missed out on early diagnosis and lifesaving treatment.

The research team are continuing to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer patients.

Updated results based on the latest data will be published on this website every month.

PDF of results - September 2021

Monthly number of 31-day to colorectal cancer treatment pathway referrals and the proportion of referrals meeting that target in England