World Cancer Day: Charities urge Scots with symptoms to seek medical help despite pandemic

Charities have urged Scots with symptoms to seek medical help despite the Covid-19 pandemic, as new research shows the proportion of people who would do so has dropped.

Ruthra Coventry with her husband and son, now three.

Figures released to mark World Cancer Day show just 57 per cent of Scots would seek treatment for symptoms including loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, nausea and unexplained tiredness, compared to 65 per cent before the pandemic.

A UK-wide survey by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) also found a limited knowledge of symptoms, with just four per cent of respondents able to identify symptoms of pancreatic cancer, and 21 per cent aware of the symptoms of lung cancer.

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Anna Jewell, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, called the findings “troubling”.

Dr Helen Rippon

"It’s undeniable that the NHS is under huge pressure but it’s essential that people do not put off seeking medical advice if they have symptoms of less survivable cancers. Early diagnosis of these cancers is crucial so the first step is making sure people are aware of the symptoms and seek medical help as soon as possible if they have any concerns,” she said.

It comes as Marie Curie warned of an increase in deaths from cancer and dementia in the next 20 years.

Researchers at Marie Curie and Edinburgh University found that 10,000 more people every year may need palliative care by 2040.

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Following the research, Marie Curie launched its Holyrood 2021 manifesto, calling on all parties to make palliative care a priority.

Richard Meade of Marie Curie said: “Everyone will experience dying, death and bereavement at some point in their lives and people deserve the best possible care and support for them, their family and friends. Unfortunately, at the moment, many miss out on some or all of the care they need. With more and more people projected to be dying every year needing a palliative approach and with increasing levels of complexity, we must plan to make sure we close the care gap before it starts to grow.”

Also to mark World Cancer Day, Edinburgh-based charity Worldwide Cancer Research announced 16 new projects being funded around the world to research cancer cures.

A project based at Dundee University will attempt to further knowledge of rare tissue cancer sarcoma with an end goal of identifying new treatments.

Other locations will include Birmingham and London.

Ruthra Coventry, 40, a cancer survivor from Aberdeen, echoed the calls of the LSCT for Scots to get symptoms checked with a doctor, despite the pandemic.

Ms Coventry suffered through many months of coughs and chest infections in 2018, which she thought were bugs caught from her son’s nursery.

She eventually went to hospital after severe chest pains and coughing up a small amount of blood, and was diagnosed with lung cancer.

She had surgery in 2019, and is now doing well, but has urged others not to put off seeking treatment, as her story could have ended “very differently”.

"It could have been a much different story if I hadn’t pursued seeing someone about my symptoms,” she said, advising others to do the same if they have “any concerns at all”.

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