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Editor’s viewpoint: Pharmacy and cancer

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Editor’s viewpoint: Pharmacy and cancer

Cancer care in this country is in crisis. It could take more than a decade to clear the treatment backlog in England caused by the pandemic.

Between March 2020 and February 2021, the number of cancer referrals dropped by nearly 370,000 on the year before, a fall of 15 per cent. If anything, these figures are an underestimate and behind the cold, hard statistics are thousands of people for whom it is now too late to cure their disease. Think about that for a moment. It is beyond devastating.

Pharmacy teams already improve cancer outcomes by promoting healthy lifestyle choices, helping cancer patients with their medicines and supporting those receiving palliative care – even if such interventions are ad hoc and unstructured, and their impact hard to quantify.

However, the NHS is missing a massive trick by not maximising community pharmacy’s considerable reach when it comes to spotting red flags and making early referrals.

This point is emphatically made by two outstanding pharmacists featured in our latest issue. Bristol pharmacist Ade Williams believes pharmacy should be integrated into formal cancer pathways and allowed to make two-week referrals to relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS and provide a faster route to diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Jackie Lewis in Exmouth, who has seen three times as many people in her pharmacy with suspicious lumps and moles than before the pandemic, says support staff should be trained to look out for cancer warning signs and a referral service incorporated into the national contractual framework.

Jackie was involved in creating an award-winning e-learning programme called Let’s Communicate Cancer, which is hosted on the BOPA website. Details are in the article. So when you finish reading this month’s Pharmacy Magazine, why don’t you become a BOPA member and do the training with your team? It could save someone’s life.

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