MORE people could die from missed cancer or delayed detections than coronavirus, a Warrnambool physician says.
Associate Professor Ian Collins, from South West Regional Cancer Centre, is urging residents to prioritise their health and not put off their concerns.
He said new cancer detections were down 20 per cent this month. But that is not necessarily good news, he said.
"Already we're starting to see that effect, so the number of new cancers in Victoria in the first week of April was 20 per cent down on last year and we're seeing that around the world," he said.
"While it's always good to have less cancer, those cancers haven't gone away, we're just going to find them later.
"There is a risk if you leave cancers longer they're harder to treat and some cancers, if you leave them for long enough, they will be incurable when we find them. Whereas if we found them early they may be potentially curable.
"There is some modelling that suggests that more people could die of missed cancer or delayed cancer diagnosis then actually die of COVID-19."
Dr Collins said the community had done a great job in managing the spread of coronavirus but they must prioritise their health.
"It's part of the balancing act," he said.
"Now we need to see a slow return to business as usual.
"It is important to emphasise to people that if they've got symptoms, if they've got a lump or a bump or something like that, they should still seek medical attention and we can still do all of those investigations if necessary.
"People have to be a bit more proactive about their health and while you can put some things on hold, health should never be put on hold."
Dr Collins said patients receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy were still receiving their care as usual.
"We're practicing social distancing and better hygiene and all those kinds of things," he said.
"There is a limit to the number of patients that can come into the centre, so family members are asked not to come with patients having chemotherapy but otherwise treatments are continuing as usual.
"We also provide out-patient oncology services and hematology and radiology which are being delivered a little differently. So most of our consultations have moved to Telehealth.
"We are still seeing people face-to-face where necessary. So for example new patients we're seeing face-to-face because it's very hard to develop that relationship when you haven't met someone before over the phone.
"And if patients have a lump or bump we need to take a look at then we'll bring them in. But otherwise we are trying to keep people out as much as we can and minimise routine investigations but most of the care is still ongoing."
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