Cancer experts from Hywel Dda University Health Board are urging patients to come forward for diagnostic tests and treatment amid concerns that many are not seeking the care they need due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite putting in place strict patient pathways and infection control measures across all of our hospital sites, the health board is concerned that patients are avoiding accessing treatment and care, after new figures pointed to a 49 per cent reduction in cancer referrals since March.
General practitioners are also urging people to phone their local surgery if they think they might have symptoms of cancer, such as a new lump, pain, bleeding or sudden weight loss.
Mr Jegadish Mathias, Cancer Lead at Hywel Dda, said: “We understand why people may feel they need to stay away due to the current COVID pandemic but we have very clear designated “green” areas in the hospitals for both diagnostic tests and treatment. We want people who have cancer to know we’re very much open for business.
“We’re having to be creative and do some things differently to help protect patients and our colleagues, but all cancer key workers are still in their usual roles, so if you have any worries at all then please get in touch in the usual way.”
Dr Llinos Roberts, a GP at Tumble Surgery, added: “Even though we’re living in extraordinary times it’s so important that people live the best life that they can.
“The health service that we can offer is different but it’s still going on – GPs are still working. Even though the doors are closed at present we can still offer advice and assess patients. But I am concerned that patients are not contacting us in the numbers that we would expect.”
Carrie Speake, a patient receiving chemotherapy treatment at the Pembroke Haemotology and Oncology Day Unit (PHODU) at Withybush General Hospital, said that people had “nothing to be afraid of” about accessing care.
She added: “It’s been fantastic. The team here are amazing, everybody is just so caring.
“It’s lovely to come and have that social interaction. The measures that the health board have put in place are absolutely brilliant.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of – nothing at all.”