Measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) and pressures on the NHS mean some breast clinic appointments are changing, but it's still important to tell your GP about any new breast symptom.
The Association of Breast Surgery (ABS) has said that some breast clinic appointments are being delayed, carried out over the phone or cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
This could affect people who are referred to a breast clinic by their doctor after reporting a possible symptom of breast cancer.
In new advice for people with symptoms (PDF), the ABS said: ‘Your local breast team will have processes in place to make sure patients that need to be seen are seen as soon as is possible in the current climate.’
Why are appointments being changed?
Some people may be advised not to come to the clinic because of the risk of the coronavirus itself.
This may happen if, after looking at your individual case, doctors believe you’re less likely to have cancer.
Appointments may also be affected because of a lack of resources caused by the outbreak. This could be because clinic staff have been redeployed elsewhere, or because there are staff shortages due to illness.
Dealing with worries about breast cancer
If your breast clinic appointment has been delayed or cancelled, it’s natural to feel worried.
Waiting for a breast clinic appointment can be very stressful in normal circumstances. In the current situation things might seem even more worrying and uncertain.
Breast clinics will carefully consider each individual case before deciding whether to delay or change an appointment.
In its advice, the ABS said: ‘Noticing an unusual change does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer, and most breast changes are not because of cancer.’
Breast pain, for example, is very common and, on its own, not usually a sign of cancer.
While breast changes such as lumps can be a sign of cancer, they are also often a sign of a benign (not cancer) condition.
If your breast clinic appointment is delayed the hospital should ensure you are followed up, and provide you with information on how to let them know about any new or worsening symptoms.
Reporting breast changes during the coronavirus outbreak
Despite the current situation, it’s still important that women regularly check their breasts so that they’re aware of any new or unusual changes.
If you find a change, contact your GP. You should do this in the first instance by calling your GP surgery or visiting the GP surgery website to find out what to do.
Worried about a breast cancer symptom or a change to your breast clinic appointment? Our breast care nurses and highly trained staff on our free and confidential Helpline are here for you.