NHS England has launched a campaign to encourage anyone with potential symptoms indicating cancer to be checked after a survey revealed that a third of people would worry about seeking help during the COVID outbreak.
The survey by Portland also found that one in ten people would not contact their GP even if they had symptoms of cancer. This is evidenced by a 76% drop in cancer referrals since February as a result of people not contacting their GP. Experts have estimated that an extra 6,000 newly diagnosed people with cancer could die as a result of the disruption around the pandemic.
To counter this worrying trend, NHS England has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the options for those with symptoms and those requiring treatment. The NHS national clinical director for cancer, Professor Peter Johnson, has said that ‘people should seek help as they always would’ if they experience any potential cancer symptoms, such as a new mole or lump, and that there are safe options including online consultations and cancer treatment hubs for those who need them.
Professor Johnson also highlighted the danger of not seeking help, as it is well-established that early detection of cancer aids survival rates and reduces the overall burden on the NHS – something that the survey found people are concerned about in this time of crisis.
The campaign is supported by a number of cancer charities, including Cancer Research UK, whose Chief Executive, Michelle Mitchell, commented that it was ‘understandable that people might be worried about leaving their home during the pandemic or think the NHS is too busy’ but that it was important for people to contact their doctor if there are signs and symptoms and arrange a virtual appointment if they are reluctant to attend the GP in person.