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Lockdown didn’t get in the way of cancer investigations for Blackburn woman

14th August 2020

56-year-old Alison Ingleby recently had concerns about a change in colour of a large area of pigmentation on her chest.

As all areas of the NHS across Lancashire and South Cumbria had quickly adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic, Alison’s GP was able to examine her through a video consultation and quickly referred her to a specialist for a biopsy.

Alison said:

“I noticed a new lump had appeared on my neck, and a large area of pigmentation on my chest had turned a pink/red colour. In my 20s, I had Basal Cell Carcinomas (the most common form of skin cancer), so I knew what signs to look out for and thought this could potentially be a sign of cancer.

As this was during the coronavirus lockdown, I called my GP practice for advice. A video call was set up that very same day so my GP could examine the areas I was concerned about. I was referred to a specialist for an urgent face-to-face consultation at Burnley Hospital only 15 days later.”

The following month, Alison went back to the hospital for a biopsy, and is now awaiting her results.

Doctors across the country were concerned by the sharp fall in the number of patients coming forward with suspected cancer at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, although this has now improved for most types of cancer. Measures are in place across hospitals, GP practices and pharmacies to allow people to access care safely if they need to be seen face-to-face. Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance are coordinating cancer care and services across the area.

Dr Neil Smith, Primary Care Director and Cancer Research UK GP for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said: 

“Melanin is the pigment which determines the colour of our skin, and some of us have birthmarks or moles where there are areas of higher melanin. Sun exposure and hormonal influences can trigger an increase in melanin, so freckles and ‘sunspots’ can appear at a later age.

If you have moles, you should check them regularly for any changes in colour, texture or size. The NHS is still here for you, and your GP can arrange further investigations if they suspect any kind of cancer.

Early diagnosis of cancer saves lives. Let’s talk cancer.”

Alison added:

“Video consultation was a quick, easy way for me to access my GP appointment without having to schedule time off work. I just had to download an app on my phone, but I found it easy to use and the GP practice staff were at hand to help.

I’d encourage anyone who has signs, symptoms or worries about possible cancer not to delay and to contact their GP right away.”

Watch Alison's video

Video Transcript

Alison:

Hello my name is Alison and I live in Blackburn. I recently had a video consultation with my GP. I'd noticed some areas of pigmentation and one in particular on my chest had gone from brown to quite pinky red.

I have a lot of pigmentation, it's partly due to age and probably my love of holidays, I do like the sun.

At the same time that the area of pigmentation changed, I noticed a lump on the back of my neck start to grow. So, I knew about Basal Cell Carcinomas because I'd had two in my late 20s and I also knew about the incredible pressure that the NHS were currently facing, so I did nothing.

A few months later, I saw a video from my GP, Dr Neil Smith, and he was reminding people that the NHS are still open and that anybody with any concerns at all about cancer were urged to contact their GP.

So, the next day I called my GP and one of the GPs from my practice called me back and explained how to download an app, which I did, it was really straightforward. We had a video consultation and during that consultation he was able to view the areas of concern and from that he referred me to Burnley Hospital.

I attended Burnley Hospital about a week later and it was so well organised and I felt incredibly safe. I waited about five minutes and the consultant from the dermatology department thoroughly examined me and then I signed the consent forms for the procedure.

I was back about three weeks later having the procedure and again felt incredibly safe. It's really really well organised and now I'm just waiting for the results of the biopsies.

I'd encourage anybody who had any concerns about cancer to contact their GP. The video consultations are extremely easy and very straightforward and  it's just better to know.

 

Watch Dr Neil Smith's video on spotting the signs and symptoms of cancer

Video Transcript

Dr Neil Smith:

Hello. my name is Neil Smith. I'm a GP and I'm a  doctor who works for Cancer Research UK and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance and I'm here to support anybody who's touched by cancer.

Every day in this country about 1,000 people are diagnosed with cancer and sadly about 450 people die with cancer. What we’ve noticed during the covid pandemic is fewer people are coming forward to talk to doctors about symptoms of cancer. What I've found as a GP is less of my patients are contacting me about their worries and nationally we've seen a 70% reduction in referrals for suspected cancer and I think it'll be an absolute tragedy if one of the additional consequences of this difficult time is people being diagnosed late with cancer.

So the message I'd like to say is to make it very clear to people that the NHS is still open for cancer and if you have any symptoms or signs that you're worried about - things like blood or a lump or a new unusual pain or a prolonged or unexplained symptom, please contact people like myself: GPs, your own doctor and tell them about it. We're still open we're still here to help you. We can speak on the telephone, we can arrange video links, diagnostic tests are still available.

If needs be, we can examine you, we can arrange blood tests and we can arrange scans. The hospitals and all the specialists, the managers, the surgeons, the oncologists, the radiotherapists, the doctors and nurses are working together and the cancer teams are still available, they've set up safe areas where you can be assessed and you can be treated for cancer.

So now, even more than ever, it is so important that we all talk about cancer and if you've got any concerns please share them with your family, with your friends.

And please, please remember that an early diagnosis saves lives and if you've got any worries or any concerns, please contact your doctor. We're here to help you and support you in this difficult time.