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Fears that hundreds of people in Suffolk aren’t getting cancer symptoms checked

PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 May 2020

People in Suffolk have been told to still get suspicious symptoms checked out during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

People in Suffolk have been told to still get suspicious symptoms checked out during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

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Hundreds of people across Suffolk may have cancer symptoms they are not getting checked out it has emerged, as referral rates plummet to just 20% normal levels during the coronavirus lockdown.

Peter Holloway, a GP in Mendlesham and cancer lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said people needed to have potential cancer symptoms checked as early as possible. Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIXPeter Holloway, a GP in Mendlesham and cancer lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said people needed to have potential cancer symptoms checked as early as possible. Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX

Stark data has prompted health bosses across the county’s clinical commissioning groups to urge people to make sure they get symptoms checked out by their GP and not to wait.

MORE: Public urged to still see GP with health issues during coronavirus lockdown

Data from the clinical commissioning groups revealed that ‘two week wait referrals’ – those requested by a GP for a hospital check on suspicious symptoms within a fortnight – were currently just 50% of their normal levels.

That figure had been just 20% of normal figures during the height of the virus last month.

With around 1,250 referrals per month in Ipswich and East Suffolk alone normally expected, it means that hundreds are not getting symptoms checked.

The CCGs said around 8% of referrals will turn out to be cancers, meaning an estimated 50 confirmed cancers per month were being missed per CCG district.

Dr Peter Holloway, GP and cancer lead with the Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “We try to run cancer services as normal.

“What we are worried about is the result of coronavirus because people haven’t come forward and will be diagnosed at a later stage than they should. We know the earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome.”

MORE: Bookmark the EADT coronavirus page for latest updates

Health chiefs said the reasons for people not wanting symptoms checked included those not wanting to burden the NHS, while others did not wish to visit a GP or go into a hospital for fear of catching the virus.

However, Dr Holloway said measures were in place to ensure that people were kept safe – including GPs using personal protective equipment and hospitals containing coronavirus beds.

Dr Holloway said: “If the GP needs to see you face-to-face it will be done with the appropriate PPE and if you need to be referred to hospital it will be safe to do so.

“If you need diagnostic tests like CT scanning, it is absolutely safe for them to.”

Some diagnostic tests were briefly halted, such as endoscopy procedures, but the CCG confirmed its different diagnostic tests were open.

MORE: GPs and prescriptions during coronavirus - what you need to know

Common symptoms which could be an indicator of a cancer and should be assessed by a GP included abnormal bleeding, persistent pains and unusual or new lumps and bumps.

If you have suspicious symptoms you should contact your GP, and to find out more visit the Cancer Research UK website here.

To stay up to date on all the latest coronavirus updates in Suffolk follow the Facebook page here or sign up to the daily newsletter here.


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