Cancer Prevention Manager, Irish Cancer Society
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a growing backlog of patients who have not presented with cancer symptoms or who are on waiting lists for diagnostic tests.
The negative impact of the pandemic and the cyber-attack on cancer services has been widely reported, and continues to have lasting consequences.
We have been hearing numerous warnings from doctors and healthcare professionals about an oncoming tide of later stage cancer cases that will emerge because of delays in people seeking medical advice during the pandemic. As well as backlogs for tests and treatment, many patients have been delayed in getting help and, as a consequence of this, are now needing more complicated treatment procedures.
The figures are stark: in 2020 there was a 12% drop in those attending rapid cancer clinics from the year before, and a 6% drop in new cancers being diagnosed.1
Furthermore, a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Core Research on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society in May, found a quarter of people who were experiencing symptoms that could be an early sign of cancer were yet to make a GP or hospital appointment.
It is now more important than ever to remind people that “Your Health Matters.” This is the theme of our recently launched awareness campaign to encourage people to put their health first and to make time to get checked out if they have any niggling worries about changes to their health.
It is important to be aware of your body and if you notice any unusual change in how your body works, talk to your doctor.
Looking out for signs and symptoms
It is important to be aware of your body and if you notice any unusual change in how your body works, talk to your doctor. The chances are it will not be cancer but getting it checked is not a waste of anyone’s time, and it could even save your life.
Some bodily changes that should not be ignored are:
- A lump or swelling
- Bleeding that is not normal for you
- Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
- Pain that does not go away after three weeks
- A cough, changes in your voice, hoarseness that lasts longer than three weeks or feeling short of breath
- A sore or bruise that does not heal
- Difficulty swallowing, indigestion or heartburn
- Mouth or tongue ulcer for three weeks or more
- A change in your bowel or bladder habit, constipation, diarrhoea or problems passing urine for more than three weeks
- A new mole or change in shape, size or colour to an existing mole
- Any change in your breast.
 Griffin, Niamh “GP referrals to cancer clinics jumped in 2021, making up for pandemic gap in services”, Irish Examiner, 6th July 2021. https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40330802.html