A cancer patient who was diagnosed during the first lockdown and has now had her cancer successfully removed echoes NHS advice to get worrying symptoms checked out as soon as possible.
Miriam McGuirk (pictured top right), from Romney Marsh, Kent, urged others not to hesitate to see their GP if they noticed anything unusual. She added that during her recent experience, she was cared for safely, quickly and with empathy. She said she felt safe attending her GP practice and hospitals for tests and treatment throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Miriam said: “I knew something was amiss, and then the lump felt more prominent and became painful. I realised that I couldn’t leave it. I would say to anyone who notices anything – do not hesitate to get it checked out, it is better sooner rather than later. You will be looked after and cared for.”
Video: Cancer patient Miriam McGuirk gives her advice to anyone who notices any worrying symptoms
It is also important that patients continue with any ongoing treatments, such as routine endoscopy, and follow the advice of their clinician and hospital to help keep themselves safe while accessing care.
Early diagnosis is so important
Dr Tina George, a GP and Clinical Lead for Early Diagnosis with the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, emphasised that early diagnosis could save your life.
She said: “Catching a cancer in its early stages can, in some cases, be the difference between whether it is treatable or not. It may not be anything serious, but it is better to get it checked out.
“We have introduced a range of measures to ensure the safety of patients, including making GP practices Covid-secure and offering phone and digital appointments where clinically appropriate. Please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see us if you have any symptoms of concern – we will not think that you are wasting our time.”
What symptoms should I look out for?
Symptoms that could be a sign of cancer include (but are not limited to):
- unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury (such as blood in your poo or pee),
- an unexplained lump
- weight loss which feels significant to you
- an unexplained, persistent pain
- for abdominal cancers, signs sometimes include; persistent diarrhoea, bloating and discomfort in the tummy
Many people with the above symptoms will not have cancer but it is always worth discussing this with your GP.
Afraid to seek help
In a survey of 2,178 people last year, the NHS found that almost half (48%) would delay or not seek medical help at all because of Covid-19. A fifth (22%) did not want to burden the NHS and a similar number said fear of getting coronavirus or passing it onto others was a major reason for not seeking help.
However, from March to September 2020, more than 38,300 people across Kent and Medway were urgently referred; over 96% of them were subsequently seen by a specialist within two weeks. Cancer treatment levels were maintained at over 81% of 2019 levels during the height of the pandemic– showing that the NHS is there for people when they need it.
Patient safety a priority
Dr Henry Taylor, a Clinical Oncologist at the Kent Oncology Centre, Maidstone, and Clinical Lead for the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, said: “Patient safety is a priority. We have introduced a range of measures, including Covid-secure wards and Covid-protected cancer surgical services, to ensure that we can continue to give quality care to cancer patients when they need it. Patients should not be afraid to use the NHS, we are still here for you.”
Video: Dr Henry Taylor explains the Covid-safe measures in place to protect patients using cancer services in Kent and Medway