People in Lancashire and South Cumbria are being urged to contact their GP if they have any signs or symptoms of cancer.
NHS staff are working around the clock to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time ensuring that essential and urgent cancer diagnosis, treatment and care can continue.
In the last few weeks, there has been a sharp drop in the number of patients referred for investigations and appointments for suspected cancer. There is a growing concern that some people are aware of new symptoms but are apprehensive about telling their GP. If this continues more people will be diagnosed later, resulting in a lower chance of survival. Finding and treating cancer at an early stage can save lives.
Dr Neil Smith, GP lead for Cancer Research UK and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance said:
“We understand that some people may be concerned about visiting their GP with symptoms or attending hospital for a cancer referral appointment, either because they are worried about coming into contact with coronavirus or because they don’t want to trouble doctors at this time.
Our message is that it is vitally important that people continue to seek help early for symptoms that could be a sign of cancer. Essential and urgent cancer services are continuing, so if you have a cancer symptom, you should still contact your GP as normal. They will speak to you over the phone and if needed, you will be referred for further checks.”
Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance are coordinating cancer care and services across the area. All hospitals have set up new systems offering telephone or video consultations. Innovative solutions, such as reviewing photographs of skin lesions and rapid communication channels between GPs and consultants are being used to help make a diagnosis. Tests for cancer are still available for patients. Private hospitals and other cancer treatment hubs are being set up, using dedicated beds and facilities to treat cancer patients.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is putting a huge strain on health care resources and not all patients will be seen and treated as quickly as normal. Although some patients may be waiting a little longer, no-one will get lost in the system and plans are already in place for catching up when the current situation improves.
Dr Smith added:
“Together we are fighting this crisis on many fronts. Early diagnosis of cancer saves lives. It is essential that people continue to talk about their concerns about cancer. If you have a new or persistent problem, please communicate with your family and tell your doctor. Let’s talk cancer.”