Cancer care professionals from all four hospital trusts across Kent and Medway are sharing the message that it is safe for patients to visit hospital for care and treatment.
The reminder that hospital cancer services are #HereForYou and safe to use is being shared to reassure patients who have been invited for investigations or surgery of the number of measures put in place to keep people safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Surgical consultants, specialist cancer nurses and chemotherapy specialists have taken the time to record short messages for patients who may feel worried or concerned, which you can view on the right-hand side of this page.
Dr Henry Taylor, Clinical Lead for the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance (KMCA), said: “Understandably, many patients will feel worried about coming into one of our hospitals at the moment. Some of these patients may have been shielding or their cancer diagnosis may have put them at much higher risk if they were to catch the virus.
“The safety measures have been absolutely critical in making sure we maintain a safe environment not just for our patients, but also our colleagues, which is why we have been asking all patients to self-isolate for 14 days and be tested for Covid-19 between 48 and 72 hours before their procedure.
“Our colleagues are all wearing appropriate PPE if they are within two metres of a patient, social distancing is in place and there are frequent opportunities to wash or sanitise your hands as you enter the hospital and ward where you will be treated.”
Ian Vousden, Programme Director for the KMCA, said: “Cancer professionals across the county have worked hard to adapt services to make sure we are operating safe cancer wards and able to provide necessary and urgent investigations and treatment.
“Our first priority is always safety and we want to make sure patients feel confident about the care they will receive. We do not want people to delay their appointments or treatment because they are worried about the risk of catching coronavirus.
“We are grateful to all our cancer colleagues for their outstanding work over the past three months to make sure those most in need, receive the care they need.”
#KMCancerCare #HereForYou #HelpUsHelpYou
Click on the tabs below to read about the experiences of four patients who have had hospital care during the Covid-19 pandemic:
Janie Banan, 59, from Gravesend, had breast cancer surgery at East Grinstead under the care of the Darent Valley Hospital (DVH) surgical team during the pandemic. She kindly told us about her experience a few days after her surgery:
"My first experience with breast cancer came about with a diagnosis in January 2014.
"I was treated by Ms Seema Seetharam and her team at DVH. Throughout the treatment I felt I was given the best advice and managed in both an empathetic and professional manner throughout the five years.
"After receiving my ‘five-year all clear’, I was once again called for the routine regular breast screening programme.
"This screening took place on 10 March this year. I had no concerns about the health of my breasts on attending. Unfortunately from this screening I was once again given a diagnosis of breast cancer on 23 March and referred back to Ms Seetharam and the team at DVH.
"Unfortunately for us all a worldwide pandemic was having an effect on all our lives at exactly the same time of diagnosis. Understandably I was not only shocked and concerned about my health, but also if my treatment would be comprised this time around.
"I can honestly say once again my treatment has been swift and professional. Consultation has been done over the phone and the operation in a covid-free hospital.
"At no time do I feel the treatment has been compromised and all members of the team both at DVH and East Grinstead have behaved in a professional and empathetic manner under extreme circumstances.
"I write this as I recover from my breast operation which took place on the 12 May and await the next part of my treatment plan.
"I cannot thank you all enough."
When 66 year-old Karen Lane felt a little twinge near her armpit, a quick examination led her to find a lump - and she knew immediately what it was.
Karen, who is married to David and lives in Whitstable, wasted no time in speaking to her GP. She was quickly referred on to the cancer pathway and found out soon after that she had stage one, grade three breast cancer.
Her medical team, led by Consultant Clinical Oncologist Dr Jennifer Glendenning at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, prescribed a course of chemotherapy, which took place over five months at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, to shrink her lump before surgery to remove it.
When her surgery was planned for March this year, Karen was worried it wouldn't go ahead because of the pandemic. She said: "I was concerned as my surgery date coincided with the lockdown measures for coronavirus ramping up and I thought it might be cancelled. I wasn't worried about having to go into hospital during the pandemic, I was more worried that my treatment would be delayed, especially as my consultant had made it clear to me that my type of cancer needed to be treated quickly and without delay."
Fortunately, Karen's day surgery went ahead at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, performed by Consultant Mr Michael Charalambous. Karen's results came back three weeks later and she was overjoyed to learn the chemotherapy had killed the cancer and her lymph nodes were cancer free.
"It was such a relief," she said. "Dr Glendenning was really supportive and pushed for me to have radiotherapy six weeks after surgery. I was offered a rapid course of radiotherapy which meant I had 15 days’ worth of treatment in five days. I was warned about all kinds of skin reactions such as peeling and burning but I had no side effects whatsoever.
"I feel very fortunate that I had such great care and was treated so quickly. I was never worried about getting the virus because I was so focused on having all the treatment. The radiotherapy unit at Kent and Canterbury Hospital was well away from the medical wards and you could see they were taking every precaution possible to protect cancer patients.
"Everything that could be done has been done. I have been able to have everything they recommended and in a timely manner.
"I trusted the team completely. Dr Glendenning was so good and so enthusiastic. If you feel you have trust in your doctor and they say it’s safe for you to go into hospital, please listen to them."
Louise Devenney, 45 from Swanscombe, also had breast cancer surgery at East Grinstead under the care of the Darent Valley Hospital team.
She said: “On May 5 I had a mastectomy at East Grinstead as this was a #Covid19 free hospital. Having this operation at any other time is worrying enough, but having it done during the pandemic caused me to be much more anxious.
“However, the staff explained everything they had in place for both their safety and my own. This helped to put me at ease and made me feel much more comfortable.
"All the staff on the Empress Unit were very helpful and reassuring before my operation, especially Ms Seethram and Silvia the breast nurse.
"My after care has been well organised and it’s great that when I have an appointment there is only a limited number of people on the unit.
"Although things are not normal at the moment everyone is doing a fantastic job.”
When 72-year-old Lyn Garton was invited to attend a follow-up ultrasound appointment in April at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, it was fair to say she was more than a little apprehensive.
Lyn, who is married to Martin and lives in Dover, has been shielding since the coronavirus lockdown began as she has lupus.
She had also been receiving diagnostic care for some nodules on her thyroid gland and the ultrasound was a follow-up to an earlier biopsy, to make sure they hadn’t grown any bigger.
She said: “When I first received the phone call asking me to come into Margate I was really apprehensive and asked the team if it was the right thing to do, but they assured me I needed to come in and they had put things in place to keep patients safe from the virus, such as making sure I came in on my own and my husband stayed in the car.
“When I arrived at the hospital, my experience could not have been better. From the domestic lady who helped explain the parking situation, to how I was directed through to the right reception and waiting area.
“I was offered a mask and told how to put it on which I thought was excellent and really reassuring and I barely waited five minutes before I was called in for my appointment.
“The radiographer was wearing all her PPE and was very calm and I was in and out in no time.
“If you need to go to hospital for treatment I'd say there is nothing to worry about. They made me feel comfortable from the minute I stepped in the front door. When I left and met my husband in the car park, I was still wearing my mask and the cheeky so-and-so said I looked better than normal!”