If you’re experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer it’s still important to get them checked out by your doctor. This is the key message from the Government and the British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS). Please read on if you’re at all unsure of what to do, what to expect along the referral pathway, or are worried about contacting your GP or visiting hospital at this time.
Contact your GP if you're experiencing symptoms
Patients who have symptoms concerning cancer should still contact their GPs, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please don’t sit on anything, if you are worried, GPs and hospitals are still 'open for business' and they are trying to keep those with known COVID-19 cared for separately from those without.
GP practices may not be able to see you face-to-face; many are trying to keep patients and staff safe by doing telephone and video consultations. Some tests will need to take place face to face, for example blood tests. The quicker these tests can happen the better- if your symptoms do turn out to be because you have cancer it is still as important as ever that this is diagnosed as soon as possible.
If you have been asked to go to the hospital for further investigation, it is important that you attend. The NHS is reorganising the way that cancer diagnosis is delivered so that you can undergo diagnostic tests in places protected from the coronavirus. Because of that, you may be asked to self-isolate for seven days before any diagnostic procedures, even if you do not have coronavirus symptoms. You should discuss with the clinical team at the hospital if you have any concerns about attending.
Most people who go to their GP with symptoms do not have cancer. However, if you do have cancer, earlier diagnosis can mean more effective treatment and improved chances of survival.
Please don’t sit on anything, if you are worried, GPs and hospitals are still 'open for business'.British Gynaecological Cancer Society
If you have been asked to attend hospital, the only reason you should not go is if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. In this case, you should tell the hospital, reschedule your appointment and self-isolate. The clinical team will discuss with you about when your appointment can be safely rescheduled. A short delay is unlikely to cause any harm to you and any treatment is unlikely to be safe whilst you have COVID-19 - it is much safer to wait a couple of weeks in most cases.
And if you have had an ovarian cancer diagnosis in the past…
The following guidance is a direct message from the BGCS, made up of your clinicians from all around the UK:
Some existing cancer patients have open access to their gynae-oncology service, normally via the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). If you have already had a gynaecological cancer diagnosis and have symptoms concerning for recurrence (such as persistent bloating and stomach pain), please get in touch with your CNS via their usual contact details. Please be aware that many staff have been re-deployed to look after acutely unwell patients, so there may be a delay, or a CNS from another cancer team may be covering the gynaecological cancer team. Please be understanding with us if this is the case. We will try our very hardest to look after you and get back to you as quickly as we can.
Sometimes you may be referred to another hospital in your area, if your normal hospital is very busy. We have been working together to help get you seen and treated as soon as we can. We are all one big NHS team, now more so than ever. Please bear with us and be understanding, if this is the case.
Hospital referral processes will vary from place to place
Things are different everywhere as we try to find the safest way to look after you. Processes may differ in different places over time, depending on local circumstances. This is a guide for what might happen.
A hospital referral may start with a telephone or video appointment
If you need to be referred to hospital with symptoms concerning for a new cancer, you may first get a telephone or video appointment, so that the doctors or specialist nurses can find out as much as they can without needing to bring you to hospital too often. They are doing this to keep you safe. They may then arrange for you to have tests performed (blood tests and/or scans) or may want to see you in person for an examination and/or to take samples (biopsies).
If you go to a hospital it is likely that staff will be wearing face masks, aprons or gowns and gloves. This is to protect both you, other patients and the staff. It may be difficult to hear people properly and you won’t be able to see their faces. Be assured that they will be smiling and kind behind the masks (and a bit hot and itchy!). However, this can make it hard to hear people properly. If you need to lip-read, please let us know in advance so we can make plans to help you. If you can’t hear because speech is muffled, please let us know - we won’t mind.
It is likely that staff will be wearing face masks, aprons or gowns and gloves. This is to protect both you, other patients and the staff. It may be difficult to hear people properly and you won’t be able to see their faces. Be assured that they will be smiling and kindBritish Gynaecological Cancer Society
We will be there to hold your hand
You are also likely to be asked to come on your own into the hospital or clinic room. You could think about using a mobile phone on ’speaker phone’ or link remotely using an App. This means that if you want a friend or relative can be there for you and listen to what is said, even if they can’t be in the room. We will be there to hold your hand in their place.
We may get in touch with you about the results to save you a trip back to the hospital to reduce your risks from COVID-19. If we plan to call you with results, you may need to arrange this to be at a set time. This means you can have someone available to support you, if you would like, in case of good or bad news. This could be either as a video or telephone ‘conference’ that several people can join in with, if you are living alone. An alternative is to ask you to use the ’speaker phone’ function on your phone so that whomever you live with can hear and talk too. Talk to the team about how you would like to get the results and what we are able to offer.
Looking after you
Please bear with us. We are all working as hard as we can and adapting and learning along the way. Our only aim in this is to look after you as safely as we can. Some of this may not be as ideal as we would like, but we are being creative as to how we can support you and keep you, and the hospital team, as safe as we can.