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Cancer spike predicted as pandemic eases

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Experts fear they will be a spike in cancer cases when people finally return to their GP’s for check-ups, as the pandemic eases in Australia.

Medical experts fear there will be a spike in cancer cases when people finally return to their GPs for check-ups as the coronavirus pandemic eases in Australia.

Cancer Australia believes thousands of people have missed out on cancer diagnoses because they have not gone to the doctor with worrying symptoms over the past few months.

That's despite thousands of dollars in extra funding for bulk billed telehealth consultations online and over the phone, and pleas for patients not to delay appointments because of fears of catching the virus or over-burdening doctors.

Based on data that shows around 400 people are told they have cancer every day in Australia and reports of a 10 per cent drop in GP appointments, it's estimated about 7000 patients could be affected.

Worryingly, when patients are finally diagnosed their cancer could be at a later stage, which can make treatment harder and even lower their chances of survival.

Cancer Australia CEO, Professor Dorothy Keefe, said it depends what kind of cancer people have as to how deadly the delay in diagnosis could be.

"For example, prostate cancer you can delay for a bit, but lung cancer you can't delay," she told nine.com.au.

Prof. Keefe said anybody who notices anything unusual should initially phone their GP for advice on how to have a consultation.

And she says she hopes a spike in cases happens sooner rather than later, to help people get the treatment they need fast.

"It's about your health and your life," she said.

CANCER TREATMENT DURING PANDEMIC

Civil engineer and new mum, Maria Fernanda Sanchez, 38, from Sydney's North Shore, was diagnosed with breast cancer just as the pandemic hit at the end of February.

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She had delivered her first baby, Mateo, with husband Robert just two months before and was suffering from mastitis, which is common in breastfeeding mothers.

But she went to hospital after antibiotics failed to help.

Tests led to the shock diagnosis.

She had surgery just days later, in early March, and went through radiotherapy treatment during the pandemic.

Measures in place included having to wait outside the hospital until they were ready for her, and having fewer but stronger doses of radiotherapy to limit her visits.

She has also had telehealth consultations.

Ms Sanchez urged anybody with any symptoms not to put off seeing her doctor, even if they can't do that face-to-face.

"I would say you really need to follow your instinct. Cancer doesn't wait," she told nine.com.au.

The Australian Medical Association confirmed there has been a drop in GP visits, including for pathology services such as blood tests which can be used to diagnose illnesses such as cancer.

"This means that the diagnosis of many serious illnesses like cancer will be delayed or missed," AMA President Dr Tony Bartone told nine.com.au.

Telehealth funding continues until September, but could go on longer.

Figures from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) showed there was also a 10 per cent drop in GP visits for chronic diseases too in March this year - a total of almost 100,000 less appointments.

In April, the Australian Medical Association pleaded for people not to avoid seeing their GP because of the pandemic.

Cancer Australia has released a "Cancer Won't Wait" television advertisement to urge people to see their doctor.

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Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-australia-cancer-spike-predicted-people-return-to-gps-delays-could-be-deadly-exclusive/392df3d5-bc07-43ad-898d-95295bb3c19a

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