Calls from England’s top cancer doctor urging people not to hesitate to get checked for cancer have been supported by local health services.
National research revealed that nearly half of the public have concerns about seeking help during the coronavirus pandemic.
One in 10 people would not contact their GP even if they had a lump or a new mole, which did not go away after a week, the survey found.
Another third of people would worry about seeking help, according to polling carried out by Portland.
Getting coronavirus or giving it to their family were among the top reasons that people would not come forward when they have cancer symptoms along with fears that they could be a burden to the health service.
Dr Rajaiyengar Muralidhar from NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), a specialist in cancer, stressed that the NHS had worked hard to make sure people can get cancer checks and treatment safely so there is no need to delay. Waiting to get help could have serious consequences for patients and put a greater burden on the NHS in the longer term.
Locally changes to the way that services are working, with online and telephone consultations, are meaning people do not necessarily need to go to GP surgeries for check-ups while COVID-free cancer hubs are being set up to provide surgery along with support from independent sector hospitals.
Dr Muralidhar, clinical lead for cancer at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said: “It is true that our local NHS services are working hard to manage the pandemic, but we are also working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services, such as cancer checks and urgent surgery.
“Services might be operating a little differently to protect patients from coronavirus, but we are doing all we can to make sure patients receive the life-saving care that they need.
“We have to make sure that people feel safe coming to hospitals, but my message is clear: people should seek help as they always would.”
This advice follows a drop in the number of cancer referrals across the Black Country and West Birmingham as patients are not contacting their GP for health advice.
Dr Ian Sykes, GP and clinical chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said: “We understand that people may be worried about leaving their home during the pandemic or think the NHS is too busy, but you should still contact your doctor if you’re worried about signs and symptoms or notice a change that isn't normal for you. It is very likely to not be cancer, but we know that where cancers are detected earlier, lives are saved. So even in these stressful times it’s vital people don’t delay seeking help with cancer symptoms. Remember: your GP surgery is still open as normal, and we're here to help you."