All around the world, society has ground to a screeching halt as we all try to combat the global Covid-19 pandemic. The message is clear: stay home to save lives. As we cut off almost all contact with the outside world there is another pandemic that is silently growing – cancer.
While hundreds of thousands of businesses have been forced to stop and it feels as though the plant has started revolving at a much slower pace, cancer slows down for no one and continues to affect those both young and old throughout the pandemic.
At first glance, you might believe that we are winning the fight against cancer, with cancer referrals in the UK down by 350,000 people between April and August in 2020. Of course, that is down to the fact that fewer people have been coming forward with symptoms as they are apprehensive about booking an appointment with their GP due to the risk of contracting Covid-19.
On top of that, many cancer treatments have been delayed throughout the pandemic – due to the increased risk that comes with being immunocompromised as well as through a lack of available staff. Doctors have continued to urge anyone with symptoms to get themselves checked out, even if they believe it is nothing – and the chances are that it will be. Your doctor will not be annoyed if they check out that lump and determine it is nothing to worry about, that’s the news they want to deliver.
Testing and the Vaccine
In the UK, the amount of testing taking place has increased tenfold since the beginning of the pandemic. Now, anyone who wants a test can get their hands on one – whether that be a lateral flow test which can yield results in 30 minutes or a PCR test which, although can take between 24 and 48 hours to be returned as they are returned from a lab, produce more reliable results.
On top of that is, of course, the fact that vaccinations are now taking place and, as of writing, the country is vaccinating just over 200,000 every day on average. That gives hope that the end is in sight and, gradually, normal services can be resumed.
With a backlog to work through, centres such as the Rutherford Cancer Centre as well as NHS centres will be expected to work at an increased rate to ensure that no one is missed and that every patient receives the care and treatment they need. Right now, charity Macmillan estimates that around 50,000 diagnoses have been missed, along with the fact that 30,000 fewer people began cancer treatment than the previous year.
Doctors have been urging for patients to get themselves checked over at the first sign of any symptoms. To put their patients at ease, surgeries have been made Covid-secure with social distancing made possible, as well as medical professionals wearing PPE to keep patients safe.
Additionally, many doctors are offering telephone and video consultations for patients that would rather avoid face-to-face contact wherever possible. This allows the patient to clearly describe any symptoms to their doctor who can offer advice and, if necessary, make a referral should they feel it necessary.
If potential cancer symptoms are ignored by everyone, the backlog will persist long after the pandemic is over. Your doctor’s surgery remains open and if there is a genuine concern, you will be referred to a specialist that will ensure you are given the care that you need and will walk you through the next stages.
Your chances of survival are greatly increased with an early diagnosis, so do not sit on symptoms hoping they will go away.