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NHS urges people to get checked as study warns 18,000 more could die from cancer due to Covid-19

PUBLISHED: 13:14 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:33 29 April 2020

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

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England’s top cancer doctor is urging people not to hesitate in contacting their GP to get checked as new research reveals nearly 50pc of people have concerns about seeking help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gary Brown, who was treated at the Spire Norwich hospital. Photo: Brown familyGary Brown, who was treated at the Spire Norwich hospital. Photo: Brown family

One in 10 people would not contact their GP even if they had a lump or a new mole which did not go away after a week, while another third would worry about seeking help, a survey has found.

In response to the findings Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer has urged people to get checked if they are worried about any symptoms.

He said waiting to get help could have serious consequences for patients and put a greater burden on the NHS.

Prof Johnson said: “NHS staff have made huge efforts to deal with coronavirus but they are also working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services such as cancer checks and urgent surgery.

Gary Brown, with wife Kate and children Owen, Zach and Evie. Photo: Brown familyGary Brown, with wife Kate and children Owen, Zach and Evie. Photo: Brown family

“From online consultations to the roll-out of cancer treatment hubs we are doing all we can to make sure patients receive the life-saving care that they need.

“The wishes of patients and their families will always come first, and we have to make sure that people feel safe coming to hospitals, but my message is clear: people should seek help as they always would.

“We know that finding cancer early gives us the best chance to cure it, and ignoring potential problems can have serious consequences now or in the future.”

Prof Johnson’s call comes as a another study warned almost 18,000 more people could die from cancer over the next year in England due to the impact of Covid-19.

Delays in diagnosing new cancers and getting treatment for those who already have the disease could significantly impact survival, a study by University College London (UCL) and DATA-CAN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer Experts has found.

Experts looked at real-time weekly hospital data for urgent cancer referrals and chemotherapy attendances during the coronavirus epidemic and found that the majority of patients with cancer or suspected cancer are not accessing health services.

When looking specifically at England and analysing data from more than 3.5 million patients, experts estimated that pre-Covid-19, about 31,354 newly diagnosed cancer patients would die within a year in England.

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But as a result of coronavirus, they found there could be at least 6,270 extra deaths in newly diagnosed cancer patients - a rise of a fifth.

When all people currently living with cancer are included, the figure jumps to 17,915 excess deaths.

A major public information campaign launched last week, is encouraging people to contact their GP or 111 if they have urgent care needs and to attend hospital if they are told they should.

One patient to receive a cancer diagnosis and treatment since the start of the pandemic is Gary Brown, from Dereham.

The 48-year-old went to A&E earlier this year in extreme pain and having passed blood.

Following tests, a biopsy and scans, he was diagnosed with stage three cancer at the start of April.

Mr Brown said: “When they told me it was serious my jaw hit the floor as I had thought it was a simple low grade cancer.

“Running my own business, having cancer, and concerns about Covid-19 was a lot to take on.

Mr Brown was treated by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which has joined forces with Spire Norwich, to host the NNUH’s entire chemotherapy service with up to 40 urgent operations carried out a week.

“I got a bag together, my wife took me to hospital and then I was on my own.

“I was fully isolated. I was given a Covid-19 test which was negative, and had a three and a half hour operation.

“The staff were amazing, particularly considering everything that’s happening.

“Anyone else going through the same situation shouldn’t be worried, because you are in safe hands.”


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