New Normal Same Cancer

The global pandemic caused massive disruptions to people all around the world as we all worked hard to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In New Zealand, we had huge success in crushing the curve thanks to our fast action, but even in this new normal, cancer still remains a global threat.

The pandemic has meant that normal medical care and cancer screenings have taken a back seat. Here in New Zealand, we saw decreases in many types of cancer screening (1). Treatments were also delayed, deferred or modified to account for the higher risks posed by COVID-19 to cancer patients.

Cancer doesn’t disappear as a result of reduced screening - it just remains undetected (2). And when cancer is diagnosed at a later stage it is always more difficult to treat and survival rates decline (3). Delayed treatment of an existing cancer may lead to faster progression.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer to affect New Zealand women, but early detection can save lives, so if you’ve been putting off screening, now it’s time get it done.

If you’re between 45 and 69, don’t have symptoms and have never been diagnosed with breast cancer or have been free of breast cancer for five years, you’re eligible for BreastScreen Aotearoa’s free two-yearly mammogram. Contact them on 0800 270 200 or sign up on their website (4).

Act right away if you notice any changes in your breast such as a new lump in your breast or armpit; breast thickening or swelling; change in breast shape or size; skin irritation, dimpling, redness or flaking; nipple changes or discharge; breast pain. Don’t let your doctor fob you off because you’re “too young”, “too old” or “too healthy”. Get checked and persist until you know what’s causing the symptom. Ask your GP if your results can be recorded online where you can see them. Many GPs use patient-accessible medical record systems such as Health365, ManageMyHealth, ConnectMed or MyIndici. Discuss your results with your GP and make sure you understand them.

If you’re being treated for early breast cancer don’t delay having you your scans, tests, surgery or other treatments. Persist with your doctors to ensure they see you to discuss treatment options, provide test results and deliver all your treatments in a timely way.

If you have advanced breast cancer and feel a new or worsening symptom don’t hesitate to see your oncologist. If you’re due for a blood test or scan, go ahead and have it. Make sure you’re told the results and discuss them and the plan of action with your oncologist. Ask your GP and oncologist if your results can be recorded online where you can see them.

Don’t wait, contact your doctor, get checked, get your test results and make sure you understand them. Get your treatment when it’s due to give your precious body its very best chance.

BCAC is thrilled to be one of the patient organisations working as a collective to encourage people to contact their health professional to get checks or attend appointments to minimise delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancers. Check out the newnormalsamecancer website here.

References

1. https://teaho.govt.nz/static/reports/2020-impact-of-covid-19-on-cancer-services-report.pdf

2. Cancer screening and COVID-19 in Australia, How has COVID-19 affected Australia’s cancer screening programs? - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au)

3. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer-screening/cancer-screening-and-covid-19-in-australia/contents/why-does-it-matter-if-cancer-screening-is-delayed

4. https://www.timetoscreen.nz/breast-screening/

Ends

8 Feb 2021

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