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 doing more appointments on the phone or online instead of face to face. 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. And it can be difficult to remember everything they say, especially on the phone. These tips will help you get the most out of your telephone appointment.
- Let your medical team know if you prefer a telephone or video call, or would like a face to face appointment.
- Let your team know in advance if you're hard of hearing or need an interpreter.
- Ask for a timeslot when your doctor will call you.
- Find a quiet part of the house to take the call.
- Start with a phone call if you’re not confident with a video call.
- Ask for help if you need it and, if possible, practise a video call with a friend.
- You can ask someone to listen in for support. Put your phone on loudspeaker to do this. They could also ask questions and help you remember what the doctor says.
- Write down a list of questions before the call, and think about what you want to find out from the doctor (see ‘Questions you might want to ask your GP’)
- Tell your doctor if you are worried about anything in particular.
- Ask the doctor who you can call if you have any further questions after your phone appointment.
- Ask them to explain anything you don't understand.
- Ask your doctor to summarise what the next steps are.
- Do make sure you are close to your phone or computer around the time of your appointment as people often miss telephone calls from their doctor. Your doctor's call might not always be at the exact time of your appointment due to delays in their clinic.
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 to prepare for this test?
- 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 might make you feel anxious.
Seeing a specialist and having cancer tests
GPs will 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 fewer.
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.
Before you have tests or scans
Follow the advice from your hospital. Some hospitals might ask you to isolate for 7 days before your appointment
If you don't 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?