Early diagnosis and timely treatment for cancer are still vital in the COVID-19 pandemic

Returning to a pre-pandemic level of cancer treatment and care services and reassuring patients about the safety of cancer care when they most need it are top of the agenda at the North Central London Cancer Alliance.

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Naser Turabi, programme director for the North Central London Cancer Alliance, says: “During the pandemic we have focused on making sure that urgent cancer treatment is available for patients who most need it. Through a partnership of NHS and private sector hospitals, the North Central and North East London Cancer Hub was created so that well over 1,600 cancer patients so far have had urgent surgery.

“But now that we appear to be past the worst of COVID-19 it is also vital that other forms of cancer care return to previous levels. Early diagnosis is very important for the successful treatment of cancer. We want to reassure patients that attending diagnostic appointments is safe and very necessary if you have worrying signs of a change in your health.”

Here are the main points to remember when looking after your health right now:

Talk to your GP

  • You can help the NHS to help you by taking action if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms in your body or in how you are feeling. Please contact your GP if you have any worrying symptoms. 
  • Telephone appointments can be arranged with local GPs and they can make appropriate referrals for tests if necessary.

Attend hospital appointments

  • If you are asked to attend hospital for diagnostic tests it is important that you go in. Local hospitals have put in extensive infection control measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection for visiting patients.  In line with government guidance, you will need to wear a face covering, but a mask will be provided for you if you do not have one.
  • For ongoing clinic appointments, hospitals have switched to telephone and video clinics when appropriate. But if you do need to go in for an appointment on-site, infection control measures are in place, including checking your health before you enter.

    Go for screening
  • The NHS is working on bringing back many services that were paused, including screening for breast, colorectal or cervical cancers. If you or a family member is invited please do make an appointment. Screening is an important way to detect possible cancer symptoms at an early stage, when they can be treated more successfully.

Safe cancer care is available

  • Cancer surgery has not stopped.
  • Hundreds of cancer patients in north and east London are having urgent surgery safely through the North Central and North East London cancer hub. This collaboration between NHS and private hospitals arranges for cancer surgery to be carried out at hospital sites where no COVID-19 patients are being treated.
  • Radiotherapy and chemotherapy also continue for many patients in a way that keeps them as safe as possible from COVID-19 infection. Chemotherapy for example, can be done at home with the help of a community nurse, or at a site where there are no COVID-19 patients and with strict infection control measures in place.

Naser Turabi added: “The NHS is open for business and equipped to care for patients in the safest way possible at this time.”

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