Local TV adverts and social media posts for the Help Us, Help You will urge people to speak to their GP if they have a symptom including diarrhoea, bloating or discomfort in the tummy area for 3 weeks or more as they could be a sign of cancer.
In England, around 84,000 people were diagnosed with cancers in the abdominal area in 2018, which includes ovarian, kidney and bowel cancers.
More than 4 in 10 people would leave it longer to get health advice than they normally would have before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, however delaying can have serious consequences for some cancers. That figure came from Kantar, which in September 2020 asked a representative sample of 2,178 adults about their attitudes to seeking medical help at that time, compared to what they would have done before the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.
While there was a dip in referrals for these cancers at the peak of the first COVID-19 wave, more people are now coming forward for checks.
Hospitals have put extensive measures in place so that patients can get safely tested and treated, including by rolling out COVID-19 protected hubs across the country and introducing treatment swaps that require fewer trips to hospital and have less of an effect on cancer patients’ immune systems.
England’s top GP has said people should not hesitate to get in touch with their GP if they have concerns and reassured the public that local health services have plans in place so people can continue to get tests and treatment.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care for NHS England, said:
If you or a loved one has one of these symptoms, please don’t ignore them. Our message to you is clear – you are not a burden and we are here to safely treat you so please don’t delay – help us help you and come forward as you usually would for care.
Cancer is easier to treat when it is caught at an earlier stage and so coming forward for a check could save your life.
Dr Philippa Kaye, media medic, GP and diagnosed with bowel cancer, said:
As both a GP and someone who has had bowel cancer myself, I have seen the situation from both sides and can honestly say, if you’re experiencing any tummy troubles for a few weeks, your GP will want to know about it. Hopefully it is nothing serious but if it is cancer there are lots of treatment options available and the earlier cancer is found, the better.
I know that some of my patients are nervous to come to my clinic because of coronavirus, but the NHS has put measures in place to ensure we can see you safely. So please, come and see us.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England (PHE) said:
Far too many of us ignore what our body is trying to tell us. We say to ourselves it is nothing really, we don’t want to make a fuss. But if you’re getting persistent stomach problems it may be a sign of cancer, possibly bowel, kidney or ovarian cancer.
It is so important you find out for sure as early as possible. Don’t wait until it is too late. Be positive, take control of your health, get in touch with your GP. Our NHS has adapted its services and can see you safely.
The new drive is part of NHS England and Improvement, and PHE’s Help Us, Help You campaign, which looks to address the barriers that are deterring patients from accessing NHS services. The campaign reminds people that the NHS has adapted its services and can still see patients safely.
Visit NHS – Signs and symptoms for more information.