People with possible cancer symptoms are being urged to talk to their GPs and make use of NHS services as part of a new campaign by The Northern Cancer Alliance.
There has been a drop in the number of people being referred urgently for suspected cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic – with a 76% reduction at the peak of the crisis in mid-April. Although numbers are increasing, the latest data still shows a decrease of around a third.
The regional ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign includes videos of patients sharing their experiences of being tested and treated for cancer and what it’s like to attend hospital appointments during the pandemic.
Angela Wood, Northern Cancer Alliance secondary care clinical director, said: “We urge anyone with any symptoms or signs that they are worried about, such as unusual bleeding, a lump, a new unusual pain or a prolonged unexplained symptom to contact their GP or nurse. GP surgeries offer online and telephone consultations so we can talk to people first, agree any further actions to be taken and stop people attending the surgery unnecessarily.
“Some patients are choosing to delay important hospitals appointments due to their reluctance to visit a hospital during the pandemic. We can reassure patients that all of our cancer teams protect the safety of their patients by strictly following government guidelines and our hospitals have changed the way they work to keep you safe.”
Katie Elliot, Northern Cancer Alliance primary care clinical director, added: “It is very important that anyone with symptoms and signs that might be cancer makes contact with their GP. However, we understand there are concerns about delays to cancer treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, emergency and urgent treatment for cancer has continued, despite the impact of the pandemic, on availability of operating theatres and staff and the need to protect staff and the public.
“Any delayed treatment have been reinstated based on the clinical need and individual patient risks. Regional clinical teams are working together to share surgical and therapy capacity, making sure that clinical needs are met.
“For some people, in line with guidance, some treatments have been adjusted to continue to treat the patient’s condition, whilst minimising the risk from COVID-19. The regional NHS teams continue to deliver cancer treatments, as safely as possible, throughout the pandemic.”
The campaign has been supported by Cancer Research UK, North East and Cumbria Learning Disability Network, North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System and North of England Commissioning Support Unit.