Nikhil Vasdev, associate medical director for cancer services and a consultant urologist surgeon at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, talks about treating cancer patients during COVID-19 in our second Hertfordshire health column featured by the Comet, Royston Crow and Welwyn Hatfield Times media titles.
The word cancer means different things to different people – but what is clear is that for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer or thinks they might have it, it is a worrying time.
My job as a surgeon at Lister Hospital in Stevenage includes the removal of cancers, so it means I am used to addressing the fears patients have.
For many, these concerns have heightened during the coronavirus pandemic. We know that people were worried about going to see their doctor or visiting hospital when the infection rate was high, and we saw a significant decline in suspected cancer referrals when there was a local peak of COVID-19 cases in April.
It’s encouraging to see that more people are now seeking help for symptoms which may be cancer, and it is vital this continues – early diagnosis saves lives.
If you are worried but have not yet come forward, please book an appointment with your GP by visiting your doctor’s surgery website or giving your surgery a call.
If you are not sure what to do, please visit 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111 for free from a landline or mobile phone – advisors are there to ensure you are directed to the right place so you get the help you need.
And if you do need to come into hospital for an appointment or surgery, please be assured that it is safe to do so. We have a series of measures in place, including one-way systems and limiting the numbers of patients in waiting rooms.
As a team we are proud that in June (the latest published data available) we met all our cancer performance standards. This means more of our patients are being diagnosed and treated more quickly – with 99.3 per cent of patients attending their first hospital appointment within 14 days of being referred to us by their GP, for example.
This is great news, but we do know there are people at home with symptoms who aren’t contacting their GP in the first place.
My message to anyone who has concerns, whether that is about potential cancer symptoms or something else, is that the NHS is open for business. We are here to help, so please don’t suffer in silence.