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Diagnosing children’s cancer in the pandemic

A study of cancer in children and young adults in England has found that fewer patients were diagnosed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research, which was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Festival, also shows that children who were diagnosed with cancer during the first wave of the pandemic were more likely to have been admitted to intensive care prior to their diagnosis.

These findings suggest COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on early diagnosis of cancer in children and young people.

The study was presented by Dr Defne Saatci from the University of Oxford.

She said: “Spotting cancer early and starting treatment promptly gives children and young people the best chance of surviving. We already know that the COVID-19 pandemic led to worrying delays in diagnosis and treatment for many adults with cancer, so we wanted to understand how the pandemic affected children’s cancer services.”

During the first wave, the researchers found that 380 patients were diagnosed with a brain tumour, lymphoma, leukaemia, sarcoma or renal tumour.

This is approximately 17% lower than in previous years.

They found that the average time between diagnosis and the start of treatment was slightly shorter during the first COVID-19 wave, but that children were more than twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care before their cancer was diagnosed.

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