One in five less likely to attend cancer screenings post-pandemic
A collaborative research study, involving researchers from King’s, Cardiff University and University of Surrey, has investigated the opinions people have of cancer screenings post-pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to cancer screening services, with the UK’s national cancer screening programmes effectively being paused from March-June last year. Invitations are being sent out again now, but there remains a significant backlog of people waiting for these.
As part of the COVID Health and Help-Seeking Behaviour Study, a team of researchers carried out a UK-wide survey of 7,543 adults to assess attitudes towards cancer prevention and early diagnosis during the pandemic. They analysed the data of two sub-groups, each with over 2,000 respondents who were eligible for cervical or bowel cancer screening.
While the majority of participants eligible for cervical and/or bowel screening said they would definitely participate in their next screening, a significant minority of them said they would generally be ‘less likely’ to attend screening now than before the pandemic. Three-quarters (approx. 75%) also said they were worried about delays to cancer tests and investigations, and to screenings, that are caused by COVID-19.
A follow-up study interviewed a small number of these respondents, which highlighted some of the barriers of these screenings that people may be experiencing, such as fear of COVID-19 infection and uncertainty around social distancing procedures.
The researchers have urged the Government and health services to consider how best to return screening participation pre-pandemic levels, as quickly as possible.