Cancer Council WA, through its Find Cancer Early program, has relaunched a campaign encouraging people living in Western Australia to talk to their GP about cancer symptoms, with reports filtering through of a decline in people consulting with GP's during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, people should be talking to their GPs about any worrying symptoms.
The aim of the ‘Rural Doctors Bathroom' campaign and other Find Cancer Early campaign materials is to increase awareness of the symptoms of the five most common cancers and motivate regional people to seek medical advice early on.
A potential drop in GP visits is concerning as we know that the earlier cancer is found, the greater the chance of successful treatment.
It is important to reassure the community that GP practices are open and appointments are available face-to-face, by phone and through Telehealth. This allows a patient to speak to their GP from the comfort of their home.
GP clinics may look a little different, but the changes are designed to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. Changes might include asking you to wait outside or in your car to keep space between patients, or staff wearing masks. If you are concerned, ask the receptionist when you call about what to expect and the steps your GP is taking to keep you safe..
Regional general practitioner Dr Tonya Constantine, who features in the ‘Rural Doctors Bathroom' campaign, said that she is never too busy to discuss important issues, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's so important to talk to your doctor about changes in your body. It may be nothing to worry about, but if it is something more serious, your outlook really can be improved by finding any possible cancer as early as possible," she said.
"There have been advances in the way cancer is diagnosed and treated which have led to improvements in survival. Never delay seeking advice from your doctor".
When combined, prostate, breast, skin, bowel and lung cancer make up two out of every three new cancers diagnosed in WA.
Cancer Council WA recommends the following if you experience any of the below symptoms:
- If you find blood in your poo, blood in your pee or you've coughed up blood, even just on one occasion, it needs to be discussed with a doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker straight away.
- If for more than three weeks you have noticed any changes to your bowel habits, including runny poo, pooing more often or constipation, or you have a persistent cough, make an appointment at your local medical clinic.
- Similarly, if for more than four weeks you've noticed problems peeing, unexplained weight loss, an unusual pain, lump or swelling anywhere in your body, or you are short of breath, see a doctor, clinic nurse or health worker.
People living in regional Australia have poorer cancer outcomes than people living in metropolitan areas. Survival outcomes for regional Australians are 20-30% worse than Australians living in a metropolitan area.
It's important to remember bowel cancer screening kits, cervical screening and screening mammograms are designed for people who DO NOT have any symptoms. The organisation warns waiting to participate in a cancer screening program if you have symptoms could delay your diagnosis and risk a worse outcome.
The ‘Rural Doctors Bathroom' television commercial airs from Monday 11 May across regional WA.
For more information visit Find Cancer Early