Two recent news reports have highlighted additional health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, for people who have not actually caught the virus: There has been a rise in unplanned pregnancies, due to women being unable to access birth control, and cancer screenings have been dropping, prompting fears of a rise in advanced cancer diagnoses.

Increase in unplanned pregnancies

Researchers for Marie Stopes clinics found that one in three of the women they spoke to could not access contraception because their normal means of doing so had been cut off by the coronavirus crisis. The lead contraceptive nurse at the British Pregnancy Advice Service reported a huge increase in the number of cases they see of women becoming pregnant due to problems accessing contraception at the moment, as well.

See more on this in the Independent.

The British Pregnancy Advice Service has emergency Covid-19 information available on its website here, including abortion pills by post up to 10 weeks’ gestation, which is usually free on the NHS.

For contraceptive advice for under 25s, see Brook, and the NHS website has detailed information about different types of contraception, and where people can get hold of them.

Cancer diagnoses

Cancer Research UK has published a new report around the impact of COVID-19 on cancer services. Their findings show:

Screenings were put on hold, and though they’re now resuming, there’s a huge backlog.

An estimated 350,000 fewer people were referred from their GPs with suspected cancer symptoms, and while referral numbers are bouncing back, the numbers aren’t enough to account for those who were not there during the peak of the first wave. The tests to diagnose cancer are also not taking place in sufficient numbers yet, either, with long waiting lists, for, for example, endoscopies.

The number of people beginning cancer treatment was 37% down from May 2019 to May 2020, although the graphs show a spike in March, as clinicians tried to squeeze more people through prior to lockdown.

You can read more about this wider topic in the Independent, see the Cancer Research report here.

Cancer symptoms

The Independent has a list of critical symptoms that woman may have, which could be cancer, and urges them to see their GP if they are experiencing these.

These are the six most common cancers in women and the common symptoms to be aware of: 

Cervical cancer: Dr Butler recommends that anyone whose cervical screening was postponed should reschedule. Likewise, if anyone is experiencing any persistent changes to their regular cycle, post menopausal bleeding or symptoms that are not normal for them, they should seek medical advice.

Breast cancer: This guide provides step-by-step advice on how, when and what you should be looking for when you check your breasts. The NHS states that lots of women have breast lumps and that nine out of 10 are not cancerous.

Ovarian cancerThe most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, and changes in urinary habits. Other symptoms include extreme tiredness, back pain, constipation or pain during sex.

Skin cancer: The NHS says the first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that persists after a few weeks. “See a GP if you have any skin abnormality, such as a lump, ulcer, lesion or skin discolouration that has not healed after 4 weeks. While it’s unlikely to be skin cancer, it’s best to get it checked.”

Bowel cancer: These symptoms includea persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain, or blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles, or abdominal pain when eating. See your GP if you have one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than four weeks, says the NHS.

Lung cancer: The NHS says you should see your doctor if you have any of the following; a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks, recurrent chest infections, coughing up blood, persistent breathlessness,  loss of appetite or energy.