Half of people with cancer symptoms didn’t see GP

Cancer Research UK has reported that almost half of people with possible cancer symptoms didn’t see GP in first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Initial findings of the UK-wide survey, carried out alongside Cardiff University, found that possible cancer symptoms were common during the first wave, with 40 per cent of people saying they had experienced at least one potential cancer symptom.

Of those who experienced symptoms, 45 per cent admitted to not contacting their GP for any symptom. People did not seek help even for ‘red flag symptoms’ – 31 per cent of those who experienced coughing up blood, 41 per cent of those who had an unexplained lump or swelling and 59 per cent of those who noticed a change in the appearance of a mole did not contact their GP.

People gave a variety of reasons for putting off seeking medical help, including not wanted to burden the NHS. Nearly three quarters of people were worried about delayed cancer tests and investigations due to the pandemic.

Cancer Research UK has warned that to cater for the number of patients who require medical attention, the NHS will need to operate at pre-pandemic levels to ensure everyone gets seen. And as diagnostic times are already long, investment is needed to increase capacity and make sure people also get timely diagnosis and treatment.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to manage the increased strain Covid-19 has put on an already stretched system but the government must protect cancer services if we’re to avoid the real possibility that cancer survival could go backwards for the first time in decades.”

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