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Cancer appointments are safe – please attend if you are asked to

3rd August 2020

Together with hospital trusts across the region, Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance is reassuring people that it is safe to attend cancer appointments during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

People who are being tested or treated for cancer are being urged to keep their appointments. New measures are in place to help protect patients and staff from coronavirus, it is important to not delay cancer treatment.

Cancer assessment and treatments are still happening during the pandemic. New innovations such as video consultation, reviewing photographs of skin lesions and arranging urgent tests are helping the recovery process. Meanwhile, specialised surgical hubs are helping to ensure patients receive safe and timely operations for cancer. 

Mr Ian Arthur, Clinical Lead for Cancer Services and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We know that some people are concerned about attending cancer appointments with their doctor or at the hospital due to the pandemic. It is really important that people do attend these appointments because early treatment improves the quality of life after a cancer diagnosis has been made and can save lives.”

Mel Zeiderman, Programme Director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said:

“We understand many people with cancer are anxious about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their treatment and care. Cancer specialists and local teams throughout the NHS are working together to ensure that cancer services can be delivered as safely as possible. Cancer services are still available, and the NHS is here for you.”

Dr Sarah Hauxwell, Histopathologist, Clinical Director Core Clinical Services and Lead Cancer Clinician for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Coming into hospital is a different experience than you will have had previously. A number of safety measures have been put in place to help protect patients and staff from coronavirus during treatment. These include additional signage and floor markings to promote social distancing, infection control measures and all staff and patients will be wearing protective face masks.”

Dr Alison Birtle, Consultant Clinical Oncologist for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Phone and video consultations have been introduced to hospitals in the area. But there might be situations when you still do need to see your doctor or team for a face-to-face appointment or to attend the hospital for treatment. It’s vital that you do attend appointments if you are asked to do so.”

Mr Daren Subar, Consultant for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“If you have been diagnosed with cancer it’s important that you do continue with your current treatment and care plan as agreed with your healthcare team. Talk to your healthcare team about the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on your treatment plan as they know about your individual situation and will try to work with you to find the best plan for you.”

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms

Do not attend and please cancel your appointment if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. The main symptoms are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:

  • Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
  • Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

If you are worried about your symptoms or you’re not sure what to do use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/ call NHS 111 if you can’t get help online. Do not go to places like a GP practice, hospital, or pharmacy.

Hear from our cancer clinicians in this short video

Video Transcript

If you're worried that you might have cancer, it's really important that you ring your GP in the normal way and they'll arrange to have a consultation with you.

One of the things we've seen during COVID, is that patients with potential cancer symptoms are less likely to go to their GP and less likely to be referred in to the hospital for investigation.

If you have been given a hospital appointment and you need to attend for your appointment, please do try to attend. If you have any concerns at all, please contact the relevant team that you've been referred to.

There are a number of measures that have been put in place to try to protect those patients who are at risk or even those who are not.

I know that many people are nervous about this, but there's a reason why you must attend if you've been asked to do so. And as clinicians we will all only ask you to attend if you really think that there's something that can't be done over the phone or via video consultation.

Coming into hospital now is a different experience than you will have had previously. Anyone attending for a cancer investigation is being managed in an area where COVID patients are not being managed. If you walk through the hospital, for instance, you will see a number of signs directing you to stay in a relevant path. There's a social distancing measures in place.

Hospital staff and patients are told to wear masks like the one I have on now. Sometimes we need to wear these face shields that come out over the head and make us look as though we're something out of a science fiction film. But really all of this stays there to keep you safe and to keep members of staff safe as well.

Before you come for certain types of tests, you may be asked to either self-isolate at home or you may be swabbed before you attend. These periods of self-isolation will affect other members of the family. I think it's very important that we understand that if you are worried that you have cancer that you should seek immediate attention. You should be contacting your family doctor to explain your symptoms and signs so that necessary steps can be taken to move forward with your investigation and diagnosis.

What we need is for patients or for you to come in when you have symptoms that you think might be related to cancer. Finding and treating cancer at an early stage does save lives. It enables early treatment and improves the quality of life after a cancer diagnosis has been made.

Remember that the NHS is here for you. It has been throughout the Coronavirus pandemic and it continues to work to support every patient with cancer in England during this time and it will do going forwards.