A message from NHS England
Latest figures have highlighted the drop in patients seeking medical help when experiencing potential symptoms of lung cancer; and fewer people are accessing treatment for the condition in hospitals across the South West.
The data tells us those attending hospital for suspected lung cancer following referral by their GP, fell to below 20% of normal levels during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the numbers have since increased, the aim is for the NHS to retain normal levels of referrals as we approach the autumn.
Investigation and treatment for cancers are being prioritised and it is vitally important to attend. Lung cancer is more treatable now than it has ever been, with new and more-tailored therapies.
Dr Joe Mays, a GP from Claremont Medical Practice in Exmouth, said: “It’s really important that patients who are concerned they may have a serious health problem contact their GP, especially if it is related to a symptom of cancer.
“Because of the continued need to reduce face-to-face contact, most GP surgeries will book you a phone call in the first instance, but please don’t let this put you off.
“Following the phone call your GP will be able to arrange a face-to-face examination and all necessary tests as normal.”
If you have a new and persistent or recent and persistent deterioration in cough or breathlessness, it is important you seek medical attention.
If you unexpectedly cough blood, have ever smoked and have one or more of these symptoms, please contact your GP immediately:
- Coughing for three weeks-plus
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Losing weight without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent/recurrent chest infection
Dr Henry Steer, Consultant in Thoracic Medicine at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “In most people, COVID-19 is a mild illness and symptoms get better within three to four weeks. Therefore, if you have ever been a smoker and you have these symptoms and they are not getting better, it is important to get them checked out.
“GP surgeries and hospitals have done everything they can to make sure they are safe places to attend for appointments or tests. The risks of catching COVID from a GP or hospital visit are very low and are much lower than the risk of missing a serious diagnosis, such as lung cancer.”
Our hospitals are safe to attend, with staff working hard to minimise the risk of Covid transmission as well as clinicians using the necessary PPE to protect you. Staff and patients are wearing masks during appointments and the waiting areas keeping patients at a safe distance from each other.
There is a chance that symptoms may not be suspected lung cancer, but it is important to get the necessary checks if you have concerns.