Northamptonshire doctors urge cancer checks as referrals plummet

The number of Northants people going to their GP with cancer symptoms has dropped by more than half during the pandemic.
Dr Azhar Ali has urged people with cancer symptoms to go to their doctor.Dr Azhar Ali has urged people with cancer symptoms to go to their doctor.
Dr Azhar Ali has urged people with cancer symptoms to go to their doctor.

People in Northamptonshire are being urged not to put off seeking medical help if they are worried they might have cancer – as latest figures show a dramatic decrease in cancer referrals during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the four weeks to 19 April 2020, 970 people in the county were referred to hospital for cancer investigation by their GPs.

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This was down from 2,258 referrals in the previous four weeks and a 58% drop from 2,298 during the equivalent period in 2019.

Although many NHS services are operating in new ways to help stop the spread of coronavirus, people with symptoms of cancer are still able to quickly access the help they need.

Northamptonshire GP Dr Azhar Ali says it’s vital not to delay when it comes to cancer risk.

“In recent weeks, GPs across Northamptonshire have seen a significant drop in the number of patients contacting them about potential cancer symptoms,” said Dr Ali, who is also GP Clinical Lead at Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

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“Understandably, many people will have concerns about coronavirus and some might feel like they don’t want to be a burden on our healthcare system during this period of national emergency – but we want to reassure people that the NHS in Northamptonshire is still very much here for all those who need it.

“We are taking every precaution to keep our patients safe, with a great many routine appointments now taking place remotely by telephone or video call. This helps to keep waiting rooms clear and means face-to-face appointments are limited to those who really need them, with personal protective equipment used to stop the spread of infection.

“Anyone who is worried they might have cancer should contact their GP without delay, because the longer they leave it, the higher the risk the cancer will spread and make treatment much more complicated. So don’t put it off – get it checked.”

Spotting signs of cancer

Changes to the body’s normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer.

Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:

• A lump that suddenly appears on the body

• Unexplained bleeding

• Changes to bowel habits

• Unexplained weight loss

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In many cases, the symptoms will not be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions. In the event of a cancer diagnosis, clinicians will discuss with their patients the benefits of starting cancer treatment against the increased risks from contracting coronavirus, based on their individual circumstances.

For further information from the NHS on cancer signs, symptoms and treatment visit

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