With COVID occupying the minds of a scared world, cancer’s status as the number one bad guy seems to have been revoked.
Nowadays, a fair chunk of the population have learnt to recite the symptoms of corona as naturally as their ABCs, but in doing so have pushed warning signs of cancer off the syllabus. It is estimated that each week over 2,000 cases of cancer are going undiagnosed in the UK. It’s understandable that this pandemic has brought with it a hesitancy to trouble the NHS and left little worry room for cancer.
This world, unfortunately, is big enough for the both of them. Alongside the wavering COVID death figures, cancer’s stands strong at 450 a day in the UK in 2019. It is a dangerous enemy but a fight that can be won if caught early. The Mancunion has spoken to experts in and around Manchester to find out why diagnostic rates are dropping, and how we can help them to help us.
Cancer doesn’t wait, so why should you?
WHY ARE THE DIAGNOSTIC NUMBERS DROPPING?
With screening programmes being put on hold, it is important that we look out for ourselves. So why aren’t we?
It’s thought people are not getting checked because they are worried about catching the virus or being a burden on the NHS. Both reasons are understandable but there are some common misconceptions here that need to be debunked.
Regarding the spread of the virus, yes it is an increased risk to be going anywhere outside of home and some surgeries may hold more of a risk than others, but most of the time you do not even need to set foot inside. Over the phone meetings can be used to ask about symptoms and give you peace of mind or allow you to arrange the next steps.
If those next steps require in-person interactions, extra precautions are being taken to keep the risk of virus exposure to a minimum. Consultant oncologist surgeon Lester Barr emphasises that they “will keep you safe.” With many diagnostic clinics still open, fully staffed and kitted out with PPE, the benefit of early diagnosis outweighs the risk of infection. It’s in their job description to do what’s best for you, and that promise remains, even now.
With the NHS being hurled head first into the biggest challenge of our time, it’s a fair reaction to not want to burden their load. However, for some professionals their job is to fight cancer, not Covid-19. There is diagnostic equipment empty and staff available, meaning that diagnosis does not divert the national effort away from the pandemic. What’s more, early diagnosis will actually help to ease the workload of the NHS in the long run.
GPs in Manchester explicitly state “we want to hear from you”. They can’t do their job unless we do ours.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR?
The Christie Cancer hospital in Manchester has explained that the public should pay attention to any changes in their health and ask their GP about persistent and unexplained symptoms such as:
- Lumps, bumps or swelling, changes to skin or moles
- Blood in your urine, blood in your stools or coughing up blood
- Unexplained pain
- A change in your bowel habit, feeling bloated most days in the last 3 weeks
- Extreme tiredness, getting out of breath doing normal tasks
- Weight loss
- A cough lasting over 3 weeks, especially if you have ever smoked
For further info, check out the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign on the NHS wesbite.
Here’s a shortcut of what’s important, let it be the kick up the arse you need to keep yourself safe.
Beat cancer with early diagnosis.
Realise you are not a burden, it is the doctors job to treat you and they would rather you get checked than risk a worse outcome.
Ask your GP if you are not sure, any symptom checking is not time wasted.
Vigilance – continue to look out for symptoms as well as one’s associated with covid.
Extra measures will be taken in surgeries, and early diagnosis saves lives.
So, whilst corona seems to be everywhere we look, cancer is an undercover killer that is likely to affect 1 out of 2 of us in our lifetime. Be BRAVE, act quickly and do not hesitate to seek help if something isn’t right.
This is a fight we can win and cancer won’t wait.