With Covid-19 case rates and deaths falling across the country, cancer services are starting to return to normal.
But worrying figures this week showed the number of people being diagnosed with cancer early plummeted by a third during the pandemic.
The data collected by Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service showed that 12,400 people had their cancer diagnosed at stage one between March and June 2020 – a fall of 1,500 a month from the same period the year before.
The first wave of the pandemic led to a disruption in cancer services, with many patients also nervous about going to hospital over Covid-19 worries.
Experts are urging anyone with any possible cancer symptoms to get them checked immediately.
Cancer Research UK Health Information Manager Karis Betts said: “The pandemic has had an effect on cancer services.
“Luckily we’re coming out of that and starting to improve, but it’s really important either way that people don’t worry about the pandemic or the NHS – if something’s not right, your doctor wants to see you, they want to hear from you.
“If you have an appointment it’s really important you go to it – it is safe to be seen.
“The most important thing is, if you notice a change that’s not normal for you that’s not going away, no matter what it is, you should tell your doctor about it
“Cancer is 200 different diseases so it’s impossible to learn all the symptoms for all of them, and everybody’s so different.
“We say if it’s not normal for you, and not going away, tell your doctor.
“It might be something else – it’s probably not cancer, but if it is, catching it early means it’s more likely to be treated successfully.”
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of cancer
Unexplained bleeding can often be caused by something far less serious than cancer, but you should always report it to your doctor.
This includes blood in your poo or pee, and vomiting or coughing up blood – no matter how much or what colour (it could be red, or a darker colour like brown or black). It also includes any unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
Unexplained pain or ache
Pain is one way our bodies tell us that something is wrong. As we get older, it‘s more common to experience aches and pains. But unexplained pain could be a sign of something more serious.
Unusual lump or swelling
Persistent lumps or swelling in any part of your body should be taken seriously. That includes any lumps in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle.
Persistent cough, chest pain and breathlessness
Coughs are common with colds and some other health conditions. But if an unexplained cough doesn’t go away in a few weeks or gets worse, it could be a sign of cancer.
Unexplained weight loss
Small weight changes over time are quite normal, but if you lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying to, tell your doctor.
Change in bowel habits
The NHS says you should speak to a GP if you’ve noticed these changes and it’s lasted for more than a few weeks:
blood in your poo
diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
pain in your stomach or back passage (anus)
NHS guidance recommends you speak to a GP if you’ve had bloating for three weeks or more.
The NHS says you should speak to a GP if you have a mole that:
changes shape or looks uneven
changes colour, gets darker or has more than two colours
starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
gets larger or more raised from the skin