Celebrities with cancer have joined NHS doctors to encourage the public to come forward for vital, life-saving checks.
Famous faces backing the move to increase take-up of NHS checks include the Nolan sisters, who have recently opened about their cancer diagnosis and former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull.
Although the NHS treated 85,000 people for cancer during the pandemic, nearly half of the public have said they had concerns seeking help in the midst of the outbreak, and one in 10 reported that they wouldn’t contact their GP even if they had a lump or a new mole.
Two of the Nolan sisters, Linda and Anne, recently announced that they were diagnosed with cancer within days of each other.
Linda, who is currently receiving chemotherapy for liver cancer at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, has urged people to seek help. Linda said that “it might feel daunting” but assured people that NHS staff are continuing to provide vital care.
Linda said: “The care I have received has been nothing short of exceptional, and I know people up and down the country have had similar experiences of the heroic work the NHS and staff are doing to continue to deliver the vital care we all need, even as they deal with the ongoing pandemic.
“So whilst it might seem daunting, it’s important people know they can feel absolutely safe in the hands of the NHS going in for treatments.”
Hospitals have put extensive measures in place so that patients can get safely tested and treated, including by rolling out covid protected hubs across the country and introducing treatment swaps that require fewer trips to hospital and have less of an effect on cancer patients’ immune systems.
Linda added: “If there is care or a treatment you need, don’t delay, and contact your GP or NHS 111 to ask about any symptoms. It’s so important people get checked out when they need to, cancer doesn’t wait, and timing is everything. It might be the very thing that makes all the difference.”
The call to get checked follows a sharp drop in the number of people coming forward, with 141,643 referred in June compared to almost 200,000 during the same period last year.
Bill Turnbull first talked about his diagnosis in 2018, which led to a 36% jump in people being referred for prostate cancer, and it is now the most common cancer in the country.
Repeating the message today, Bill said that people must continue to come forward when they feel like something is not right.
Bill Turnbull said: “Cancer is a cruel disease and unfortunately it did not disappear during the coronavirus outbreak.
“We know that it’s all too easy to put something like this off, but please do contact the NHS if you have any signs of cancer.”
Radio presenter and writer Deborah James, known as ‘Bowel Babe’ has been sharing her experiences about safely continuing treatment at the Royal Marsden on social media.
Deborah James said: “While coronavirus is the new big C in everyone’s lives, it doesn’t stop cancer killing people too. It’s still a threat and not just for those who are already diagnosed – you must check yourself for symptoms.
“For anyone who is worried about having their treatment during this time, the NHS is still there for people like me and you – it might look slightly different but the staff and the care remain the same.”
England’s top cancer doctor has urged people to come forward for checks, and said that waiting to get help can have serious health consequences now and in the future.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer said: “We cannot let covid become a reason for people not to get checked for cancer – NHS staff up and down the country have worked very hard to make sure that tests and treatment can go ahead quickly and safely.
“Cancers are detected earlier and lives are saved if more people are referred for checks so our message to you is to come forward – it could save your life.”
TV doctors, including Dr Ranj Singh and Dr Amir Khan echoed the call to come forward for checks.
Dr Ranj said: “Please go to your GP if you think there’s something wrong and it might be cancer. The key signs to look out for include; bleeding that’s not from an obvious injury, weight loss or loss of appetite, and any type of pain that just won’t go away.
“Usually, the chances are that it’s nothing serious, but it’s vital to find cancers early so treatment can be started sooner and then there’s a better chance of being cured.
Dr Amir Khan said: “I know it’s a worrying time for everyone, but the NHS has pulled out all the stops to make sure it is safe for you to attend. The teams looking after you will only ask you to come in when it is safe and important to do so.
“So do contact your GP if you are worried about anything. Help the NHS help you get the care you need.”