A million and a half women have missed out on breast cancer screening as a result of the pandemic.
Around 12,000 of them are now likely to have undetected breast cancer and could die as a result, according to analysis released yesterday by Breast Cancer Now.
The charity found that a backlog of 1,480,000 women needing mammograms had built up since national breast screening ground to a halt in March last year.
The scans are offered to women aged 50 to 71 every three years, preventing around 1,300 deaths and detecting 19,000 cases a year.
But the service was suspended for four months during the first lockdown, meaning a million fewer women had tests.
Even though screening has now resumed, the backlog has grown by half a million.
The service is still running at lower capacity due to chronic staff shortages and stringent infection control procedures due to the pandemic.
A million and a half women have missed out on breast cancer screening as a result of the pandemic [Stock image]
Baroness Delyth Morgan, of Breast Cancer Now, called for urgent investment in 'the chronically understaffed imaging and diagnostic workforce' to give women the best chances of survival.
'A year ago we reported with concern that almost one million women had potentially missed breast screening due to services being paused in the first wave of the pandemic,' Morgan said.
'Unfortunately, despite our hardworking NHS staff, screening services running at reduced capacity means that now 1.5 million fewer women have been screened - a staggering 50 per cent increase since services restarted.
'Women with breast cancer are continuing to pay the price due to the impact of the pandemic and, in the worst cases, delayed diagnoses could mean that some women die of this devastating disease.
'Quickly finding and treating those with undiagnosed breast cancer must be a priority, and governments across the UK must urgently ensure there is sufficient investment to do this - these women do not have time to wait.'