Cancer survivors say they fear the wider impact of the Scottish Government’s decision to suspend screening to free up staff in hospitals to help treat patients with coronavirus.
In the daily briefing on Monday, the Scottish Government announced the decision as the NHS attempts to cope with the spiralling number of Covid-19 cases.
A number of examinations have been suspended, including routine screenings for bowel, cervical and breast cancers.
One Tayside cancer survivor said she was concerned abut the “horrible ” decision but she said she understood why it had been taken.
She said: “It is horrible to not be able to get your screening test, but at the same time it is important to protect the NHS.
“I don’t know how quickly cancer can grow, but hopefully a couple of months shouldn’t make too much of a difference.
“Anyone who is due to have a screening test in the next few months and is worried they might have cancer should take extra precautions against coronavirus.
Cat added: “If you were going for a test and don’t know whether or not you have cancer, the best thing to do is stay at home and stay healthy.
“If you do end up getting diagnosed with cancer, that puts you in the ‘at risk’ category so it is worth keeping your distance.
“Stay at home and don’t go to the shops, someone else can get something delivered for you if you are concerned – you need to avoid people because it will be much worse if you have cancer.”
Meanwhile, charities across the region have also reacted to the news, and urged people living with the disease to take proper precautions.
Lesley Howells, centre head of Maggie’s Dundee, said: “The cancer screening that has been cancelled is mainly for early diagnosis in otherwise well people, but there is no doubt that worry about changes to treatment and screening can be really worrying for people living with or who are concerned they might have cancer.
“It is already such a hard time for people with cancer as they self-isolate so any changes like these adds enormously to stress levels.
“Our priority now is to help them by talking through how they can manage that anxiety and by listening to their fears.
“Anyone living with patients who has any concerns or needs advice can contact Maggie’s on 01382 632999 or email email@example.com.”
Tom Berry, head of Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity, said: “The difficult decision to suspend breast screening in Scotland in light of the coronavirus outbreak may cause significant concern for many women and we now need to do all we can to support them through the coming months.
“This is not a decision that will have been taken lightly, but it is a necessary step in both limiting the risk of infection for women of screening age and helping free up emergency resource for the NHS to respond to the crisis.
“Until this vital service is able to resume, we would encourage women not to be alarmed but to check their breasts regularly, and to report any unusual changes to their GP. ”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In practice the decision means no additional patients will be invited for screening until further notice. Results for those who have recently been screened or who have completed and returned home test kits will continue to be processed.
“The move means healthcare staff can be re-allocated to support other essential services, including Covid-19 laboratory testing and covering for colleagues who are unwell or self-isolating.”