A cancer charity has launched a campaign to urge people in Wales to get checked for the disease following a drop in referrals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cancer Research Wales said fewer patients are being treated for cancer than before the pandemic started, with Welsh GPs making around 18,200 urgent referrals for suspected cancer between March 2020 and August 2020 alone.
The charity launched its biggest ever awareness campaign, Get Checked, on Wednesday, and said it feared the lack of urgent referrals will impact on treatment and survival rates of people with the disease.
It hopes more people in Wales will consider seeking medical advice as the country’s Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, with “stay local” rules likely to be lifted by next week.
The eight-week awareness campaign is targeting people aged between 50 and 70 years old – the age group most prone to cancer but least likely to visit the doctor – who have experienced unexpected, concerning changes to their body in recent months but have not approached their GP.
It asks people to tell their GPs if they have symptoms commonly associated with cancer, such as a lump in the breast, persistent coughing over several weeks, chest pain, breathlessness, changes in bowel habits, unexplained bleeding, changes to skin moles and unexplained weight loss.
Ann Tate, chief executive of the charity, said: “We share the concerns of other cancer charities, cancer services and clinicians across Wales that it is highly likely there are a significant number of people with undiagnosed cancer.
“Diagnosing cancer later contributes to poorer outcomes for everyone affected.
“During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were told to ‘stay home, protect the NHS and save lives’. An essential message at the time, but one that contributed to fewer people speaking to their GP with unexpected changes to their body.”