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Overcrowding crisis risks delayed detection of cancers: Irish Cancer Society

*Concern that those with cancer symptoms may be avoiding medical care due to crisis

*Risk that patients undergoing treatment are avoiding hospitals due to current conditions

Efforts to catch cancer cases early are being put at risk due to concerns among patients and the public about overcrowding in the healthcare system, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.

The Society’s Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said: “We are concerned that people with cancer symptoms are putting off seeking medical care because they do not think it is serious enough amid the ongoing hospital overcrowding crisis, and the call for only urgent cases to attend Emergency Departments.

“People in treatment may also be worried about contacting or attending hospitals if they are feeling unwell, due to fears of being admitted through Emergency Departments. We are very concerned about the chill effect this is having on them calling their cancer teams.

“Cancer detection is time-critical: any delays to a cancer diagnosis being picked up can negatively impact the chances of a good outcome for patients. We are very concerned that decisions not to seek medical advice because of the crisis across the health service, added to wait-times for diagnostic tests for those who do present with symptoms, will result in delayed diagnoses of cancer.

“We already know that around 1 in 10 cancer cases expected to be picked up in 2020 were not due to the effects of the pandemic, which has continued to be a factor in the last two years.

“We don’t want the current crisis to jeopardise progress made since the start of the pandemic in encouraging people to seek medical help when they need it.

“Government needs to do much more to ensure that timely and appropriate care is available to everyone who needs it. Patients still face unacceptably long delays, and our health service is woefully under-resourced to meet the pressures that are already emerging from the growing number of people being diagnosed with cancer.

“Lastly, we would urge anyone experiencing symptoms that are unexplained, unusual or persistent, or who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, to please still seek medical advice.

“If that isn’t possible, please contact the Irish Cancer Society to speak to a nurse who can give information, support and advice for free on 1800 200 700.

“Even amid the current difficulties accessing care, nobody should suffer alone at home and we don’t want anyone to be afraid, so please pick up the phone and make contact with us.”

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The Society’s Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh

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