Director of Advocacy, Irish Cancer Society
The disruption caused to healthcare by the pandemic will have a knock-on effect on the cancer system for years to come. Addressing this looming challenge must continue to be a top priority.
We know from research conducted by the Irish Cancer Society in 2021 that many people put off accessing healthcare. This was due to safety concerns amid repeated COVID-19 virus surges, confusion over the availability of GP appointments and not wanting to put more pressure on stretched health services, alongside other considerations.
Delays in diagnosis
Unfortunately, we are already starting to see some of the delayed diagnoses and later stage cancers arising from this situation coming through the system. It is more important than ever that people are aware of the signs of cancer. They must seek medical help as soon as possible if they have a concern, given the impact this can have on survival.
The likelihood of participants contacting their GP if they notice cancer signs or symptoms also rose markedly as a result of the check-ups.
The results of a series of roadshow events we ran last year help to illustrate the difference that access to healthcare knowledge can make for people. A total of over 18,000 people visited the roadshow stands across 10 locations nationwide last autumn, with more than 1,000 availing of free health check-ups with a nurse.
Understanding signs and symptoms
Follow-up surveys show that participants’ understanding of cancer signs, symptoms and risk factors rose by between 10 to 20 percentage points compared to their knowledge of these areas prior to talking to a nurse. Almost 90% of people said they found the information on offer to be useful.
The likelihood of participants contacting their GP if they notice cancer signs or symptoms also rose markedly as a result of the check-ups. This demonstrates the urgent need for actors in the healthcare space to be proactive in reaching out to the public with relevant and reliable information.
We are glad to have our Your Health Matters roadshow events back up and running for this year, but this represents just one aspect of a wider push needed to ensure that people of all backgrounds are empowered to get the help they need when they need it.