Don’t wait. Contact your doctor. Get checked.
COVID-19 has given us a “new normal”, from face masks to hand sanitiser and social distancing, it has also profoundly affected healthcare.
In New Zealand, we saw a drop in cancer screening, pathology and some surgery1. Fear and anxiety around contracting coronavirus also resulted in some Kiwis deferring medical attention for new symptoms or attending routine follow-up appointments2.
While diagnosis numbers improved as we moved out of lockdown4, we still need to be vigilant.
As a collective of patient organisations in New Zealand, we want to encourage people to contact their healthcare professional, get checked or re-book their missed medical appointments, to minimise the time between cancer diagnosis and treatment, from weeks to days.
As a collective of patient organisations, we want to encourage people to contact their healthcare professional, get checked or re-book their missed medical appointments.
Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition
“If you’re being treated for early breast cancer don’t delay having 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.”
Libby Burgess, Chair
Bowel Cancer NZ
“Over 3000 Kiwis are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year of which 1200 will die. Bowel cancer doesn’t stop in a pandemic which is why we can’t afford for bowel cancer diagnostic screening and treatment to be delayed.
Covid-19 could mean more later stage outcomes, so it is vital Pharmac approves new drugs for this disease. Nothing has been funded in NZ specifically for bowel cancer in the last 20 years. Bowel cancer is curable if caught early, so we urge people not to delay in seeing their GP and to get a second opinion if they are still concerned.”
Rebekah Heal, General Manager
Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand
“Finding breast cancer early – before signs and symptoms appear – is the best way to save lives. But with free mammograms paused during the Covid-19 lockdown, we know that around 400 women missed the chance to have their breast cancer detected early, and there’s now a backlog in some regions.
Hundreds more Kiwi women have died of breast cancer than of Covid-19 in the last year, so don’t let the pandemic stop you getting a mammogram if you’re due. Book it as soon as possible with BreastScreen Aotearoa – let our nurses know if you can’t get in. All women over 20 should check their breasts regularly and see their doctor if they notice any changes. We recommend considering annual mammograms from 40-49, then every two years from 50.”
Evangelia Henderson, Chief Executive
Cure our Ovarian Cancer
“In New Zealand ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cause of female cancer death, and yet most women can’t name any symptoms, and misdiagnosis is too common. As there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to see your GP if you have any concerns, and don’t put it off.
We’re here for you every step of the way – we help women find support, advocate for and raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and fund low-grade serous ovarian cancer research.”
Jane Ludemann, Trustee
“Lung cancer is NZ’s biggest cancer killer. Sadly, more kiwis die of lung cancer, than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined.
Lung Foundation New Zealand is dedicated to increasing survival for lung cancer and we are here to support you. Early diagnosis is vital to the best possible outcome. Be aware of your risk and symptoms. Ask your doctor to check your lungs, if you have; a cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time, a sore or a “rough feeling” throat, chest pain, shortness of breath (or wheezing), coughing up blood and/or lung infection/s.
Cancer doesn’t wait for Covid-19, so please do not delay investigating symptoms, skip check-ups or healthcare appointments. You know your body best and prompt screening could save your life.”
Philip Hope, CEO
NZ Gynaecological Cancer Foundation
“Every year, over 1,000 women in New Zealand are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer. Over 475 women in New Zealand will die from gynaecological cancer every year.
While some of these cancers have no screening test, early detection will always save lives – so please continue regular cervical screening, especially if you postponed it due to the pandemic, and if you notice any unusual symptoms like bleeding, pain, tiredness or you’re simply feeling like something is wrong, consult your doctor.”
Jan Barker, Trustee
“The Covid-19 restrictions in our country have resulted in significantly fewer men being diagnosed with prostate cancer, which in turn means many more men have missed getting their regular screening, or occasional prostate checks at their GP.
Early detection of prostate cancer usually leads to better outcomes, so this message is a wake-up call to men, if you missed getting checked – don’t delay. The risks of COVID-19 have not changed the risks of prostate cancer. Regular checks are even more important now.”
Graeme Woodside, CEO
“Don’t leave your health to chance – there are currently no screening options to detect four out of the five gynaecological cancers. Early detection and diagnosis are vital when it comes to survival. We are dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public on the signs and symptoms, in order to reduce late-stage diagnosis – while there is a chance to treat the disease.
While Covid-19 may have stopped you wanting to see your doctor, it’s crucial if you have any concerns that you now do so. And if you’re not up to date with your cervical smear please make it a priority.”
Tash Crosby, CEO
How to get involved
We must come together as a community to prioritise our health – to check-in with our doctors for routine healthcare visits, prioritise screenings, ask questions about any unusual symptoms and encourage our loved ones to do the same.
Talk to your doctor
If you are experiencing any symptoms, are due for a screen or test or if you feel something is wrong, contact your doctor.
Share the message on social media
Tell your loved ones to get checked and encourage others to do the same using the hashtag #NewNormalSameCancer
Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency, produced reports on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and cancer care in New Zealand.
We encourage you to visit our partners in the patient advocacy community working on the frontlines of healthcare across our country. If you have any concerns please visit their websites.