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Millions of people missed out on potentially life-saving scan when non-Covid-19 NHS services ground to a halt during the pandemic, analysis shows.

In England, at least 4.4 million fewer scans were performed between April and September this year compared to the same period in 2019.

One in seven people is now waiting more than three months for a scan as the NHS attempts to clear the backlog.

NHS England says some services are now back to the same levels as last year.

But professional bodies and Cancer Research UK say the period of inactivity has left a backlog that could leave a swathe of people presenting at a hospital in a worsened condition.

“Those patients could be diagnosed with a more aggressive, later-stage cancer,” said Jody Moffatt, head of early diagnosis for Cancer Research UK.

“There is a cohort of patients out there that have not been diagnosed yet – and who knows what state they will be in when they are.”

‘I don’t want to die’

Toni Cunnington, a former social intervention worker, and mother of four, had an MRI scan at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust canceled in March, even though she suspected she had cancer due to a genetic condition.

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She is now undergoing aggressive chemotherapy for stage-four lymphoma.”The symptoms I’ve had mostly from January to now have been horrific,” said Toni, 34, who believes her condition would not have deteriorated as much if her cancer had been caught earlier.Earlier in November, she had to have white blood cells drained from her lungs. She now spends most of her time in a wheelchair as the chemotherapy leaves her weak.While she is grateful for the NHS, she says she is concerned potential cancer patients are being considered a low priority during the crisis.