People are being urged to seek help for potential symptoms of cancer after it emerged that fewer are coming forward during the pandemic.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the latest NHS data for England shows fewer people are being referred for help for lung cancer and urological cancers because they are not coming forward for help.
Data for November 2020 shows that while most referrals for suspected cancer were similar to 2019 levels, referrals for lung cancer were at 71% and urological cancers were at 85% compared to the previous year.
As a result the Health Secretary and NHS clinical director for cancer are calling on the public to speak to their GP if they are worried about symptoms.
They stressed that cancer diagnosed at an earlier stage is more likely to be successfully treated. The NHS has robust measures in place to protect cancer patients, and those being screened for cancer, from Covid-19, DHSC said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “If you notice any unusual symptoms which last more than a few weeks, however mild you think they might be, please come forward and discuss it with your GP.
“The sooner you speak to your GP, the sooner a diagnosis can be made, the sooner treatment can start, and the more lives we can save.
“I also urge anyone with cancer in the clinically extremely vulnerable category to ensure you get your Covid-19 jab when you get the call, so we can ensure all of the most vulnerable in society are protected from this devastating virus.”
So, what are the warning signs you really shouldn’t ignore?
If you have any of the following, you should call your GP to book an appointment – either face-to-face, over the phone or via video conference:
A lump in your breast or a lump that’s rapidly increasing in size elsewhere on your body.
Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness for more than three weeks – call your GP first, as these are also symptoms of coronavirus.
Changes in bowel habits that have lasted more than a few weeks – these include blood in your poo, diarrhoea or constipation, pain in your abdomen or anus, persistent bloating, a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going for a poo.
Unexplained bleeding, such as blood in your wee, bleeding between your periods, bleeding from your bottom or finding blood in your poo, coughing up blood, bloody vomit, or bleeding moles.
A new mole or changes to an existing mole meaning it: changes shape or looks uneven; changes colour; starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding; gets larger or more raised from the skin.
Unexplained weight loss – losing weight over a period of a few months but not as a result of changes to your diet, exercise or stress.
Very heavy night sweats.
A sore that does not heal after a week or so.
An unexplained ache or pain that won’t go away.
A tongue or mouth ulcer that lasts more than three weeks.
Croaky voice or hoarseness that won’t go away.
Persistent heartburn or indigestion.
Persistent difficulty swallowing.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer, said: “We cannot let Covid become a reason for people not to get checked for cancer. NHS staff up and down the country have worked very hard to make sure that tests and treatment can go ahead quickly and safely.
“Cancers are detected earlier and lives are saved if more people are referred for checks so our message to you is to come forward – it could save your life.”