The number of patients with suspected cancer being sent for urgent referrals is down by almost three-quarters, according to the interim chief medical officer.
Dr Gregor Smith has issued a plea for anyone with new or persistent symptoms to contact their GP as urgent suspected cancer referrals were 72% down on average.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Dr Smith said A&E attendance was also 54% lower than the average equivalent weeks in the past three years.
Urging people to contact their GP if they notice symptoms such as a new lump, unusual bleeding or a persistent change in bowel patterns, Dr Smith said: “Please don’t delay unnecessarily.
“Your NHS remains here for you, please seek help and attention when you need it.
“There’s strong evidence that a reduction in people coming forward to seek help has led to lower numbers of urgent referrals for suspected cancer.
“This is seen not just in Scotland but appears to be a pattern in other parts of the UK.
“GPs are telling me that they’re seeing much fewer people coming forward with these types of symptoms and signs, and the volume of referrals that are being received backs this up.
‘This must mean that there are people out there who are not seeking help from the GP when they might need it.’Dr Gregor Smith
“In fact, there’s been a 72% reduction in urgent suspected cancer referrals compared to the weekly average.”
He added: “Now, I don’t believe for a second that either these diseases or these concerns have simply disappeared.
“So this must mean that there are people out there who are not seeking help from the GP when they might need it.”
‘If it was urgent before Covid-19, it remains urgent now.’Dr Gregor Smith
Urgent suspected cancer referrals are cases when a patient’s GP suspects their symptoms could suggest cancer and they are then sent for further tests.
Dr Smith acknowledged “some clinical investigations and cancer treatment may be altered” because of the risks posed by coronavirus but added: “It remains important that patients bring the symptoms to the GP, so that they can be managed appropriately.
“If it was urgent before Covid-19, it remains urgent now.”