Those with cancer symptoms are being urged to visit their doctor as early as possible, even during lockdown.

The NHS has seen the number of referrals for urgent cancer screenings drop during the pandemic, and is asking people to visit their doctors if they have any worrying symptoms.

Lynsey Robson, Macmillan lead cancer nurse for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We really want to encourage awareness and increase the vigilance in terms of the specific signs and symptoms for potential cancer diagnosis.”

Symptoms of the disease include; getting out of breath more easily; blood when going to the toilet; feeling bloated for three weeks or more; changes in your breasts; coughing for three weeks or more; changes in your skin; such as moles; having heartburn for three weeks or more; and any pain that doesn’t stop.

Lynsey added: “These symptoms could be a sign of many things, but people are not wasting anyone’s time by having them checked out. If you’re concerned your symptoms may be cancer, please contact your GP.”

Talking about support available for people with symptoms of cancer, Lynsey continued: “There’s support out there, and people can visit websites such as Macmillan, who have a lot of good support material, and they’ve got a helpline as well that’s available seven days a week for people to contact if they’ve got concerns. Also there’s a really good Cancer Research UK website.

“But ultimately what we want to encourage the population to do is please just contact your GP Practice – make contact with them, you can do a telephone consultation and get a bit of advice, and then see whether there is any need for a referral into secondary care.”

Clinicians are aware that many people may have delayed contacting their GP or visiting hospital sites because they are worried they may catch coronavirus.

But Lynsey explained: “Patients who are concerned they may have symptoms of cancer can contact their GP via telephone in the first instance, and have a consultation remotely from the safety of their own home.

“The hospitals have also made exceptional precautions. The appointments are scheduled so that it reduces an unnecessary number of patients coming in all at one time, and we are trying to reduce the amount of family members or carers that are coming into the department, encouraging patients to come on their own where they can.

“The staff when you see them will have their face masks on, and their aprons and gloves, in terms of protective equipment.

“We have provisional Covid questions that we will screen patients for before they enter a hospital site, and the staff on the chemotherapy unit and radiotherapy unit are taking patients’ temperatures before they come into the unit.”

Lynsey added: “We are here and we want to see patients, and if we need to take them through investigations that will lead to a potential cancer diagnosis, we don’t want to delay this if we don’t need to.

“The Government advice for Covid-19 is to Stay Alert for signs and symptoms of Covid, and what we would also say is to Stay Alert to the signs and symptoms of cancer.”