Jeff Prestridge  

Early illness detection saves lives

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Movember Month is drawing to an end – a month in which men are meant to grow moustaches (no chance, personally) and are encouraged to take time out to think about potential health problems that can scar their lives forever. 

These include the likes of testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health issues.

This year, coronavirus has cast its dark shadow over Movember – and understandably so.

As a result, the campaign has gone under many people’s radars, despite the best efforts of the moustachioed Peter Crouch and his wife Abbey Clancy to give it a lift.

Yet the fact remains that we must do all we can as a society to encourage both men and women to come forward if they are worried about a lump or are regularly getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet.

Equally, we must ensure we have the medical resources to screen these people so that any detected cancers can be treated early.

Sadly, people aren’t coming forward in the numbers they should be doing – a result of not wishing to burden a stretched National Health Service. And, understandably, the NHS’s priority has been on coping with Covid-19 – 50,000 plus deaths already this year and increasing by the day.

Earlier this month, Michelle Mitchell, head of charity Cancer Research UK, wrote to the prime minister (and the heads of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments) on this troubling issue, stating that “the public must feel confident [that] if they have suspected cancer symptoms, they will receive a diagnosis, swiftly and safely”.

This plea came as some 3m people wait for cancer screenings while 350,000 have not had the urgent referrals they so desperately need.

Experts believe there are some 50,000 patients with undiagnosed cancer due to Covid-19 chaos in the NHS.

All rather concerning and it is reflected in some of the data currently being collected by financial protection insurers. According to a survey conducted last month on behalf of Aegon, more than 40 per cent of people have either put off seeing a doctor about a health concern or have had a scheduled health screening delayed as a result of the pandemic.

This combination of consumer reticence and NHS capacity constraints is now being reflected in critical illness insurance claims figures.

Aegon says the volume of new claims is down by nearly a quarter in the six months to the end of September this year, compared with the same period last year. For some cancers, claims are alarmingly down.

For example, in the first half of this year, Aegon paid just over £906,000 in prostate cancer claims. This compares with £5m for the whole of last year.

These numbers trouble Simon Jacobs, Aegon’s head of claims, which is reassuring given you would have thought he would be happy to see claims fall through the proverbial floor.