THE number of suspected cancer patients referred for investigations and appointments has risen after falling at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

An NHS spokesman said that more people were now talking to their GPs about their concerns. However, for lung cancer only about one in four of the expected numbers of patients are contacting their GPs and being referred to hospital. Some patients are even being diagnosed in A&E.

The NHS has reiterated its commitment to providing essential cancer services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Urgent care and treatment is still available to help Lancashire and South Cumbria residents, don’t risk your long-term health by delaying getting the help you need.

NHS staff have worked hard to put in place measures allowing people to access care safely – such as splitting services into Covid and non-Covid. GPs, pharmacies, NHS 111 and A&E departments in the area are still operating for those who need them.

Dr Neil Smith, GP lead for Cancer Research UK and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said: “It is a difficult time for patients and GPs to assess and deal with respiratory symptoms.

"The national message is if you have a cough, stay at home and isolate yourself. However not all coughing or breathing difficulty is caused by covid-19.

"If someone has a cough or breathlessness that has gone on for three weeks, there is a risk of lung cancer. This is especially so for someone with who is a smoker or has symptoms like coughing blood or losing weight.”

Cancer assessment and treatments are still happening. New innovations such as video consultation, reviewing photographs of skin lesions and arranging urgent tests are helping the recovery process. Novel solutions such as specialised surgical hubs are being utilised to ensure patients receive safe and timely operations for cancer.

Dr Smith said: “The NHS is still here for you. GPs can arrange chest x-rays if they think someone may have lung cancer. Early diagnosis of cancer saves lives.

"It is essential that people continue to talk about their concerns about cancer. If you have persistent or worrying symptoms, please contact your doctor. Let’s talk cancer.”

If you need medical help from your GP practice, contact them online, by an app or by phone to be assessed.

If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service. If you cannot get help online, call 111.

If it’s a serious or life-threatening emergency, call 999.

If you are told to go to hospital it is important that you go.

You should continue to attend your appointments, unless you have been told not to.