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I have symptoms of cancer what should I do during the coronavirus outbreak?

You should still contact your doctor if you notice a change that isn't normal for you or if you have any possible signs and symptoms of cancer.

Even if you're worried about what the symptom might be, or about getting coronavirus don't delay contacting them. Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don't make an appointment. The symptom might not be due to cancer. But if it is, the earlier it's picked up the higher the chance of successful treatment. You won't be wasting your doctor's time.

This video explains the importance of going to your GP if you notice any possible cancer symptoms. It lasts for 42 seconds.

Contacting your GP

The coronavirus outbreak means that GPs are talking to people on the phone or online. This is to reduce the risk of coronavirus to them and their patients. When you speak to them, they will ask about your symptoms and tell you if you need to go into the surgery to see a GP.

They may suggest that you keep an eye on your symptoms and arrange another appointment to check in with them after a certain amount of time. Make sure you know when and how to contact them. And contact them again if your symptoms get worse or don’t get better.

One of the symptoms of coronavirus is a new continuous cough. It is important that you tell your GP everything about your cough. And whether you have any other symptoms such as unexpected weight loss, fatigue or loss of appetite. In some people, a continuous cough can also be a symptom of cancer and not coronavirus.

Getting the most out of your telephone appointment

When you speak to the doctor, it can be difficult to remember everything you want to say especially on the phone. These tips will help you get the most out of your appointment.


  • Find a quiet part of the house to take the call – your doctor will hopefully give you an idea of what time of day they will call you.
  • Ask someone to listen in for support - they could also ask questions and help you remember what the doctor says
  • Before the call write down your symptoms including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.
  • Write down if anything makes them worse or better.
  • Tell them if you are worried about cancer in particular.
  • Tell them if you have any family history of cancer.
  • Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand.

Questions you might want to ask your GP

  • Do I need to see a specialist? Is it urgent?
  • When will I see them?
  • Where will I see them?
  • Will I find out about my appointments by post or telephone?
  • Do I need tests? What will they involve?
  • How long should I expect to wait?
  • Where can I find out more about tests?
  • Do I have to do anything in to prepare for this test? When will I get the results and who will tell me?
  • When will I get the results and who will tell me?

Your GP might not be able to answer all of your questions. They will tell you what they can at this point. Not knowing is difficult to cope with and can make you anxious.

Seeing a specialist and having cancer tests

GPs can still make urgent referrals to specialists or for tests if they’re worried you might have cancer. The hospital should contact you to tell you more about your appointment. Your first appointment might be a telephone appointment with a specialist doctor.

Hospital teams might need to prioritise tests and appointments so they can see those most in need. They will base any decisions on the symptoms people have and the risk of them being cancer. They will talk to you about the possible risks of delaying a test until the risks of COVID-19 are over.

You might have to wait longer to have tests. This might make you worry more. But your team will have you on a list and make sure you do have the test as soon as possible.

Let your GP or the specialist team know if your symptoms get worse or don’t get better.

If you need to see your GP or specialist, they will follow strict guidance on infection control to protect themselves and other patients. This might include wearing personal protective equipment.

Hospitals are trying to create coronavirus free environments so that you can have tests in a safe environment. So they might ask you to self isolate for 7 days before your tests. Even if you do not have coronavirus symptoms.

It is important to attend any appointments for tests. The only reason not to attend is if you have symptoms of coronavirus. In this case, you should contact the hospital tell them about your symptoms. They will cancel your appointment and you should self isolate. The medical team will talk to you about when you can attend an appointment safely.

If they don't think you need any tests or a referral or they want to delay it

Questions you might want to ask:

  • Can you explain why I don’t need to have tests or see a specialist?
  • Is there anything I can do to help myself?
  • Do I need to see you again?
  • Who do I contact if my symptoms continue or get worse, especially during the night or at weekends?

Video explaining why you should contact your GP

In this video Dr Neil Smith, GP lead for Cancer Research UK and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance talks about why it is important for people continue to seek help early for symptoms that could be a sign of cancer. It lasts 2 minutes and 7 seconds.

Last reviewed: 
18 May 2020
Next review due: 
12 Jun 2020

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