Cancer services are still available during the Covid pandemic and people with possible symptoms of cancer are urged not to put off seeking help and advice, the Health Minister said today (Wednesday 17 June).
A campaign to highlight the importance of continuing to access essential cancer services has been launched in Wales.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
We know that many people have been avoiding their GP surgery or hospital due to COVID but tests and treatment for cancer are available and I want those who need to seek care and treatment to continue to do so.
Services will look different, with some appointments being done remotely and if you do need to be seen in person then clinicians may be wearing protective equipment. This is to reduce everyone’s risk of catching COVID when being investigated for cancer or receiving treatment for cancer.
We have worked hard with the NHS to ensure cancer services can continue but the pandemic has had an impact on services. That doesn’t mean the NHS isn’t there for you but it does mean care and treatment has had to adapt to being delivered in a world with COVID. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure cancer services are there for you when you need them.
Professor Tom Crosby, Consultant Oncologist and National Cancer Clinical Director for Wales said:
If you are unwell with symptoms that you are worried about or that are persistent then please seek support from your primary and community health care teams. They are open for business and will be able to safely assess you, and where necessary reassure you or refer you on for further tests or treatments.
If you are referred for further tests and/or treatment, health boards and hospitals have undertaken a huge amount of work to ensure services are as safe as possible. Appointments for tests and treatment will have been made because it is felt to be really important to investigate things further, to reassure you as soon as possible if you do not have serious problem, or to treat it as soon as possible if you do. If you are worried about whether it is safe to attend your appointment please ask your GP or the hospital what measures are being taken to keep you safe and well during this time.
Steve Ham, Chief Executive on Velindre NHS Trust said:
Velindre Cancer Centre is open for business – we are treating and supporting cancer patients today as we have been for the past three months. The virus has proved extremely challenging for us but we have worked at considerable pace to think differently in order to maintain first class treatment and care for our patients.
We have embraced new technology as a means of maintaining patient-doctor relationships and upped our online engagement to signpost services and reassure an understandably anxious public. In all this, I have never been prouder of our staff who have gone over and above to ensure patients find the support they need.
Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales and Chair of the Wales Cancer Alliance, said:
This is a very anxious time for people living with cancer and those awaiting diagnosis or treatment. These are exceptional circumstances for health and care services across Wales, which have been working incredibly hard to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.
We welcome the clear message by Welsh Government that no-one should hesitate to come forward with symptoms of cancer and at Macmillan we urge people to respond to this by getting any cancer signs or symptoms checked straight away. Although many people referred for tests won’t have cancer, it is vital that symptoms are investigated as quickly as possible.
Public Health Wales have announced today that screening programmes in Wales will resume sending invitations and reminders to people eligible for screening for cervical, breast and bowel cancer, starting with Cervical Screening Wales from the end of June.
Screening is for people at higher risk of a particular cancer and is different from looking into symptoms of cancer.
If you have symptoms of potential cancer, such as prolonged or significant changes in your physical health, then please contact your GP for advice. They will want to hear from you.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer and are undergoing treatment, then it’s important you keep in touch with your clinician and key worker to agree the best way forward for your care.
If a diagnosis of cancer has already affected your physical and mental health or the way you are able to eat and drink, it’s important to seek further advice and support. Being physically, nutritionally and mentally 'fit' for any potential treatment helps reduce the risk of side-effects and also helps you recover quicker.
It’s also a good time to give up smoking and help is available from the NHS Wales at www.helpmequit.wales/
Hospitals have undertaken a huge amount of work to ensure services are as safe as possible. Appointments continue to be made as it is important to investigate things further and where needed provide treatment.
People worried about safety should not miss appointments but discuss with their GP or hospital about what measures are being taken to keep patients safe and well.
Support and advice is also available from Macmillan Cancer Support. Their support line is open seven days a week between 8am-8pm on 0808 808 00 00.
Comprehensive information and support, including Macmillan’s latest guidance and advice on the impact of coronavirus on cancer care, is available on Macmillan
The Wales Cancer Alliance also have a directory of member services. Their online community continues to provide invaluable emotional and peer support.