MILLIONS of people are missing out on vital cancer tests and treatment because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures.
The NHS faces a huge backlog of around 2.5m cases as the Covid-19 crisis wears on.
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And charity Cancer Research UK says 2.1m patients are awaiting screenings for breast, cervical and bowel cancer.
Another 290,000 people have missed out on urgent referrals, the Daily Mail reports.
Over the course of the past nine weeks, at least 21,600 patients have had surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy postponed.
Campaigners fear patients with warning signs have avoided seeking help - because they're frightened about their chances of catching coronavirus in a surgery or at hospital.
The lockdown will begin easing today, with primary schools in England reopening to some pupils.
Some non-essential shops will also start to open again, and people will be able to meet in groups of six for barbecues and picnics.
Sarah Woolnough, policy chief at Cancer Research UK, said: "We're going to have this huge backlog to clear.
"It's a massive backlog of services and treatment to deliver.
"It's absolutely huge.
"It's thousands and thousands and thousands."
Professor Charles Swanton, the charity's chief clinician, said: "My colleagues and I have seen the devastating impact of this pandemic on both patients and NHS staff.
"Delays to diagnosis and treatment could mean some cancers will become inoperable."
The medic said the longer a patient waits to be diagnosed and treated for cancer, the more likely it is that the tumour will spread to other tissues and organs.
Data shows that, across the UK, 12,800 have missed out on surgery, 6,000 on chemotherapy and 2,800 on radiotherapy during the crisis.
Some hospitals have delayed cancer procedures as a result of the pandemic.
Routine screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer has been suspended in many areas.
Lynda Thomas of Macmillan Cancer Support said: "Long before the pandemic hit, cancer waiting times were at their worst.
"Since the coronavirus outbreak, it's become even harder for people with cancer to get the care and support they need."
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Cancer Research UK is calling on the Government and the NHS to increase testing in specialist treatment centres.
The centres were launched by the NHS last month to ensure cancer patients have safe spaces to have tests and treatment, far from coronavirus wards.
A spokesperson from the NHS said: "Cancer services are largely now open, ready and able to receive all patients who need care, so the critical point is that anyone who is concerned about a possible cancer symptom should contact their GP practice and come forward for a check-up."
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