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Celebs and lockdown heroes urge public to get cancer symptoms checked and attend routine appointments

Famous faces, including TV chefs Gordon Ramsay, Nadiya Hussein, and actress Emma Thompson are backing a major new campaign urging anyone concerned about cancer to get checked and to keep routine appointments, as new research found that even now, nearly half (48 per cent) of the public would delay or not seek medical help at all.

A fifth (22 per cent) would not want to be a burden on the health service while a similar number said that fear of getting coronavirus or passing it onto others was a major reason for not getting help.

More than four in ten people would leave it longer to get health advice than they normally would have before the coronavirus outbreak, however delaying can have serious consequences for some cancers.

NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to keep cancer services going throughout the pandemic, with almost one million people referred for checks or starting treatment since the virus took hold.

The NHS’s Help Us Help You access campaign will use TV adverts, billboards and social media to urge people to speak to their GP if they are worried about a symptom that could be cancer, and also remind pregnant women to attend check-ups and seek advice if they are worried about their baby.

People with mental health issues are also been encouraged to access NHS support.

England’s top GP says that people should not hesitate to get help and that waiting could have serious consequences for patients.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care in England said: Alongside treating 110,000 people with coronavirus, NHS staff have gone to great lengths to make sure that people who do not have COVID can safely access services.

“So whether you or a loved one has a routine appointment, or a potential cancer symptom, our message is clear – you are not a burden, we are here to safely care for you so please don’t delay – Help Us Help You and come forward as you usually would.

“Cancer is easier to treat when it’s caught at an earlier stage and so coming forward for a check could save your life.”

NHS services have put a range of measures in place so that people can be treated safely throughout the pandemic including COVID protected cancer surgery hubs, a COVID friendly drugs fund which means fewer trips to hospital and chemotherapy being delivered in more convenient locations.

Symptoms of cancer include:

  • Changes in bowel habits, including blood in your poo
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump
  • Persistent bloating
  • Pain that does not go away

The cancer Help Us Help You advert is available here.

TV chef Gordon Ramsay said: “As we head into winter, it’s really important that we remember that despite COVID-19, the NHS can still see us safely. I was really pleased to help reassure the public and remind them that the NHS is here for them when they need it.”

Lockdown heroes including 100 year old Dabirul Choudhury with his Ramadan walk, Annemarie Plas who started Clap for Carers, and Ayesha Pakravan-Ovey who delivered hundreds of meals to those in isolation, will all join the NHS plea to say letting the NHS help you is one of the best ways of supporting the health service.

Dr Amir Khan said: “COVID-19 has been hugely challenging for everyone and while it’s easy to understand why people are fearful about seeking medical advice and want to avoid being a burden, it’s so important that people come to see us when they need us. If you’re pregnant, please go to your antenatal appointment and contact us if you’re worried about your health or your baby’s health. And if you’ve spotted something you think might be cancer, please contact your GP. We’re still here and we can see you safely.”

Jane Lyons, CEO, Cancer52 said: “It is hugely concerning, but completely understandable, that the number of people coming forward to seek help for symptoms that may be cancer has fallen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. So we very much welcome this campaign to encourage people to come forward if they are worried.

“Most of the time symptoms will not be cancer but it is always best to get anything abnormal or different checked out as earlier diagnosis and treatment can save lives.  It’s particularly important for rare and less common cancers where symptoms often aren’t as obvious, aren’t seen as often and can accordingly take longer to diagnose.

“Everyone needs to be reassured that if they do come forward with symptoms, action will be taken and that they will be diagnosed swiftly and, if needed, treated in a COVID-free environment.

“We hope this campaign will give people the confidence that everything necessary is being done to keep people who come forward safe.”

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “It is cause for great concern that almost half (48%) of the people surveyed said they would delay or not seek medical help at all, as we know that early breast cancer diagnoses can help prevent deaths from the disease.

“It’s so critical that women check their breasts regularly and that they report any new or unusual changes to the doctor as soon as possible, and this remains as important as ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are measures in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infection to help keep you safe, and while most breast changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions when it is, the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be treated successfully.

“This is why we welcome the NHS’s ‘Help Us Help You’ access campaign that is urging people to speak to their GP if they are worried about a symptom that could be cancer.

“Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. You could do this when you get dressed, in the shower, or when you’re putting on moisturiser. Just remember to check the whole breast and the surrounding area, including your upper chest and armpits. There’s no special way, it’s as simple as TLC; Touch, Look, Check

Macmillan Director of Campaigns, Policy and Influencing Steven McIntosh said: “We cannot say this strongly enough: if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of cancer – say you notice something new or unusual –  we urge you to contact your GP straight away. Delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment can make it harder to treat the cancer and can also reduce people’s chance of survival.  Don’t put it off, and don’t think you’re not a priority during coronavirus.

“Even during a time of crisis, the NHS is investigating any potential cancer signs or symptoms and processes have been adapted to ensure patient safety. To help anyone who might have cancer, it’s vital that the Government makes sure the NHS has everything it needs – such as workforce and kit – so that hard-working staff can continue to test and treat people safely for cancer.”

Frimley Health and Care