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.
If you notice any possible cancer symptoms or any changes that are unusual for you, contact your doctor because early cancer diagnosis saves lives. Due to coronavirus fewer people are contacting their doctor. Your local surgery is ready to help you safely. They can talk to you by phone or video link and can arrange for tests. Whatever happens, tell your doctor if your symptoms get worse or don’t get better. Early diagnosis saves lives. Contact your GP now or go to CRUK.org/coronavirus for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello my name is Neil Smith, I’m a GP and I’m a doctor who works for Cancer research UK and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance. I’m here to support anybody who is touched by cancer. Everyday in this country about 1000 people are diagnosed with cancer and sadly about 450 people die with cancer. What we’re noticing during the COVID-19 pandemic is that fewer people are coming forward to talk to doctors about symptoms of cancer. What I’ve found as a GP is that less of my patients are contacting me about their worries and nationally we’ve seen a 70% reduction in referrals for suspected cancer and I think it would be an absolute tragedy if one of the additional consequences of this difficult time is people being diagnosed late with cancer. So the message I’d like to say to make it very clear to people is the NHS is still open for cancer and if you have any symptoms or signs that you are worried about- things like blood or a lump, a new unusual pain or a prolonged or unexplained symptom please contact people like myself or GPs, your own doctor and tell them about it. We’re still open and we are still here to help you. We can speak to you on the telephone, we can arrange video links, diagnostic tests are still available if needs be we can examine you. We can arrange blood tests and we can arrange scans. The hospitals and all the specialists, the managers, the surgeons, the oncologists, the radiotherapists the doctors and nurses are working together. The cancer teams are still available. They have set up safe areas where you can be assessed, and you can be treated for cancer. So now even more than ever it is so important that we all talk about cancer. And if you have any concerns please share them with your family and your friends. Please, please remember that early diagnosis saves lives. If you’ve got any worries or concerns, please contact your doctor. We’re here to help you and support you through this difficult time.