Cancer care during COVID-19

To mark World Cancer Day 2021, we hear about vital adaptations to cancer services at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to help continue treating patients during the current pandemic.

Irina Belun-Vieira-Mr Christian BrownThe aim of World Cancer Day, which takes place on 4 February each year, is to raise worldwide awareness, improve education, and encourage personal and collective action to reduce preventable cancer deaths.

To mark the day, we heard from colleagues at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on being cancer-aware, the importance of patients seeking treatment if they are concerned, and how services are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trust works in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust as part of the South East London Cancer Alliance to help maintain cancer treatments as much as possible to patients across all six boroughs of south east London.

Irina Belun-Vieira, Head of Nursing Cancer at King's College London NHS Foundation Trust [pictured above, left]

Irina Belun-Vieira said:

Prevalence of cancer increases year-on-year and World Cancer Day provides us with an opportunity to increase health promotion, as well as raise awareness of cancer signs and symptoms to encourage people to access care early.
With recent advancements in technology, healthcare is more robust in diagnosing and treating cancer, meaning that people are able to continue with their normal lives.
COVID-19 has presented us with an unprecedented situation where nationally no-one knew what was the best way to respond.
We have tried to learn from the first wave and have tried to preserve cancer care as much as possible, and where it is safe to do so. COVID-19 presents us and the wider organisation with different challenges every single day.
To help support outpatients and their families, the team has worked on developing the cancer page on the King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust website with many helpful resources, links to videos and pan-London virtual events available to help and support concerns or questions people may have. We all understand it can be a very lonely time for many of our patients and we have kept our support groups running virtually.

Mr Christian Brown, consultant urologist at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust [pictured above, right]

Mr Christian Brown specializes in benign and malignant prostate disease. He cares for men with all prostate conditions including infections, urinary problems and prostate cancer.

When asked why it is important to raise awareness for World Cancer Day, he explained:

Men typically under-report personal symptoms such as urinary difficulties and sexual dysfunction, which may be caused by a prostate enlargement or cancer. Despite COVID-19, men can and must seek help when needed by their GP or specialist.

Due to the pandemic, many services have had to adapt. Mr Brown explains how his team continued to care for patients.

We have continued to run our prostate diagnostic services as close to normal as possible. The difference is we are using telephone or video consultation more and more. If patients need scans, biopsies or treatments we are able to carry them out. However, some delays may cause anxiety so we spend more time, along with our specialist nurses, to help patients.

Mr Brown explains why it is important for patients to contact health services if they have health concerns.

Patients may get a worrying symptom such as blood in the urine (haematuria). Due to access issues with GPs, we know nationally that two-week wait for suspected cancer referrals has dramatically reduced. Since blood in the urine can be a sign of bladder or renal cancer, it is imperative that patients contact their GP so they can get referred and seen quickly in their local hospitals. Clinics to evaluate haematuria have been prioritised by the NHS and are still running in all hospitals.

Cancer services remain an absolute priority for the NHS. Please contact your GP if you have any worrying symptoms. Find more information on cancer symptoms.

To mark World Cancer Day, take a look at our King’s Health Partners Learning Hub cancer resources, including a series of videos to help keep up to date with the latest developments in cancer care and interactive modules on how to prescribe chemotherapy.