Local cancer experts from radiation oncology provider GenesisCare issued an urgent plea about the potential dangers of delaying cancer screening, testing and treatment due to coronavirus.
The pandemic has seen a significant drop in new cancer diagnoses due to the impact of COVID on cancer screening programs and declining public engagement with health services.
During the current Omicron outbreak and on the back of the summer holiday period, radiation oncology provider GenesisCare has seen a drop in new referrals and patients on treatment.
GenesisCare radiation oncologist Doctor Sean Brennan said while it was understandable people became anxious visiting a GP or clinic during the current Omicron wave, he said it was imperative that residents remained diligent with regular health checks and screenings.
“Early detection, screening and diagnosis have been proven to significantly improve patient survival rates and quality of life,” Dr Brennan said.
“While telehealth has a really important role to play I also implore people to physically visit their GP if they are concerned about a new skin spot, lump or bump.
“We are seeing people from the community come in to our centre with more advanced lesions than we would normally see.”
Bundaberg resident Lynette Atkinson was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), the earliest form of breast cancer, through Breast Screen Queensland.
Ms Atkinson underwent surgery to remove the carcinoma and was then referred to GenesisCare Bundaberg for three weeks of radiation therapy.
The 74-year-old is the secretary at the Moore Park Tennis Club, and she has been encouraging all other members to keep up their regular appointments and screenings.
“Since my diagnosis I’ve had five of our tennis members book in for their breast screen appointments,” Ms Atkinson said.
“They were all very anxious because of my result, but all of their results came back clear and they were glad they had that extra reassurance.
“I’ve had breast screens every two years since I was 40, and this is the first time anything has been found. It did pay off.
“Hopefully it’s given me a few more years of my life to enjoy with my family.”
Ms Atkinson praised the GenesisCare health team.
“The whole team at GenesisCare Bundaberg were great – the girls there who answered the phone said if I had any problems, ring,” she said.
“If you’re in town, go straight to the nurse’s door and go in. They were there – all the time.
“I was one of the lucky ones.”
GenesisCare Bundaberg nurse unit manager Elizabeth Jensen said the teams at GenesisCare and Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service had been working tirelessly to ensure cancer patients could continue to receive treatment in a safe environment.
“Cancer doesn’t stop for COVID-19 and we have strict quality and safety measures in place to minimise the risks to patients, many of whom are immunosuppressed,” she said.
Ms Jensen stressed the importance for all residents to get checked if they notice any changes or worrying symptoms, and to maintain regular screening appointments.
“Regular screening saves lives, it is one of the most important vehicles for detecting the early signs of cancer and ensuring people are diagnosed and on treatment as soon as possible,” Ms Jensen said.