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Cancer Won’t Wait during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cancer Australia has launched a new social media campaign targeting all Australian adults. The Cancer Won’t Wait campaign aims to encourage people of all ages to see their health professional with any new or persistent symptoms that could be cancer.

Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO, Cancer Australia, said “Many people are staying away from their doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic, for fear of contracting the virus or not wanting to waste their GP’s time. However, if we consider a scenario of 1 in 10 people who might delay seeing their doctor with a cancer symptom for 6 months, we estimate that this year, potentially 7,000 cancer cases could go undiagnosed, or be diagnosed at a later stage in Australia.”

In the wake of COVID-19, the number of GP visits has declined.

At the moment you might be hesitating to contact your GP about changes you have noticed, or symptoms that are unusual for you - but that’s not a good idea, “said Professor Keefe.

“Most symptoms are due to something less serious than cancer, but if it is cancer, the earlier it is found, the better.”

There are a number of ways Australians can consult with their health professional. In addition to an initial phone discussion, new telehealth methods are now being widely used, as well as in-person appointments.

“Your doctor is there to look after your health as usual. Contact them to arrange an appointment.”

Cancer symptoms to be aware of include; coughing up blood, or a new or changed cough that doesn’t go away; a change in bowel or bladder habit including bleeding; any breast change, including a lump; unexplained vaginal bleeding; a new or changing mole; persistent unexplained pain; a new lump or swelling and unexplained weight loss or tiredness.

“Cancer has a major impact on individuals, families and the community. All three national population-based screening programs (for bowel, breast and cervical cancer) are operating, and people are encouraged to keep up to date with their screening. These programs have significantly reduced the impact of cancer on Australians through an organised approach to prevention and early detection of cancer,” said Professor Keefe.

The Cancer Won’t Wait campaign is supported by video messages from Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO Cancer Council Australia; Associate Professor Liz Marles, GP; Professor Chris Baggoley, cancer consumer and former Australian Chief Medical Officer; and Melanie Lane, cancer consumer and Corporate Service Manager, Mallee District Aboriginal Services. These will be shared across social media.

Cancer Australia has also launched a website hub Information about cancer and COVID-19  which provides up-to-date, evidence-based information, and guidance about cancer and COVID-19.