“Just get it checked”, say local health chiefs

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Your NHS is open, safe, and here for you – so if you’re having any worrying symptoms, get them checked.

That is the message from health leaders and experts in the Black Country and West Birmingham, who are backing a national campaign urging anyone concerned about cancer to get checked, as well as to keep up any routine appointments.

Research shows that more than four in 10 people would leave it longer to get health advice than they would have before the COVID-19 outbreak – but delaying can have serious consequences for some cancers.

Dr Sundus Yahya, consultant clinical oncologist at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “When it comes to cancer, time can be of the essence. The earlier cancers are caught and treated, the better the outcome often is.

“Your local NHS is working very hard to make the whole cancer journey COVID-safe, from the initial contact with your family doctor through to any hospital and community-based treatments that may be required.

“So don’t delay – if you notice any changes in your body that worry you, no matter how small, make an appointment with your GP. And if you are referred to a specialist, it’s vital to keep up your appointments to give you the best chance of beating cancer.”

The NHS research, conducted by Kantar in September 2020, revealed that nearly half (48%) of people experiencing symptoms would delay or not seek medical help at all, while 22% specifically said they did not want to be a burden.

Dr Anand Rischie, local GP and chair of Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s understandable that people don’t want to feel like a burden on the NHS during a pandemic, but you are not a burden. Helping people is exactly what your NHS is here for.

“In the interests of COVID safety, your GP will offer you a video or phone appointment, and follow up face-to-face if they need to see you. We understand that’s a little different from what you may be used to but please don’t let the new way of doing things put you off. We’re open and we’re here for you.

“If you’re worried about anything, get in touch with your GP. If we have any concerns, we can get you to the right specialist in a timely way. And if it turns out to be nothing to worry about, it’s great to be able to put your mind at rest.”

Janette Rawlinson, Lay Director at Sandwell & West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group and patient representative member of NHSE lung cancer clinical expert group, British Thoracic Oncology Group and West Midlands Cancer Alliance Expert Advisory group, said: “Understandably people are now more scared of seeking help but every measure has been taken to ensure safe care during diagnostic tests and treatment.

“It’s vital that people know services are there to help those already living with a cancer diagnosis, in treatment or with suspicious symptoms. Any change in symptoms might be a more serious condition so please seek help early.”

NHS services have put a range of measures in place so people can be treated safely during the pandemic including COVID-protected cancer surgery hubs, a COVID-friendly drugs fund which means fewer trips to hospital, and some treatments now being delivered outside of hospital.

Symptoms of cancer include:

  • Changes in bowel habits, including blood in your poo
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood
  • A lump
  • Repeated chest infections
  • Persistent bloating
  • Blood in urine
  • Pain that does not go away.