Cancer diagnosing services are fully operational

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A LEADING consultant with the University of Limerick Hospitals Group has moved to assure people concerned about their health that its full range of testing facilities is open for business.

Consultant Haematologist Dr Denis O’Keeffe said that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused considerable anxiety but the group’s hospital diagnostic services continue to accept referrals and are safe to attend.

Dr O’Keeffe said that many weeks of planning went into ensuring essential services remained open and these plans are now in operation. Hospital services have been reconfigured to stream non-Covid patients from confirmed or query Covid patients to minimise the risk of transmission.

“These patients are assessed and treated in separate areas. We continue to diagnose and treat new cancers and we are encouraging anybody who has a concern to contact their GP and seek advice at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) is also encouraging people who may have cancer symptoms to contact their family doctor.

The number of patients being referred to cancer diagnostic services has decreased since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic which is a cause of concern as it indicates that people with symptoms of cancer are delaying seeking medical advice.

“GP and hospital diagnostic cancer services are continuing to operate. Services have been re-organised and precautionary measures taken to ensure surgeries and hospital environments are safe for patients. All healthcare staff have been trained and equipped to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“The average number of patients with suspected breast, lung, prostate and skin cancer being referred weekly to hospital clinics has dropped to less than half of that prior to the announcement of Covid-19 public health measures. These are patients who are referred electronically by their GPs”, Dr O’Keeffe explained.

While there has been a slight increase in the number of people being referred in the past week, the NCCP is concerned that people with signs of cancer are not contacting their GPs as they may be fearful of attending healthcare services.

Early diagnosis can improve cancer outcomes. The NCCP is advising the public to telephone their GP if they notice a new lump or bump, a changing lump or bump,   abnormal bleeding, changes on skin, unexpected weight loss or constant tiredness.