Almost half (45%) of people who had possible cancer symptoms in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic did not see their GP.
This is according to research from Cancer Research UK and Cardiff University, which found that this was even the case for “red flag” symptoms – 31% of those who experienced coughing up blood, 41% of those who had an unexplained lump or swelling and 59% of those who noticed a change in the appearance of a mole did not make an appointment.
Worries about contracting Covid-19 if they visited primary and secondary care services did not appear to be a major factor in the survey participants’ decision to delay seeking advice.
Reasons for putting off seeing their GP included worries about wasting health professionals’ time (15.4%), putting additional strain on the NHS (12.6%) and not wanting to make a fuss (12%).
Nearly three-quarters (72.3%) were worried about delayed cancer tests and investigations due to the pandemic.
Some 40% of those polled experienced at least one potential cancer symptom.
“We’re extremely concerned people have put off seeking help for cancer symptoms, even if this was for the best of intentions,” said Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell.
“Worryingly, we don’t yet know what the pandemic’s long-term impact on cancer stage and survival will be, so it’s vital people don’t delay contacting their GP if they notice any unusual changes to their body.”
Mitchell said the government must protect cancer services as we emerge from the pandemic “if we’re to avoid the real possibility that cancer survival could go backwards for the first time in decades”.
The research involved a UK-wide survey of 7,543 people, and covered their experiences from March to August 2020.