The importance of talking to your GP despite COVID-19
By Jenny Daly
When was the last time you saw or spoke to your GP?
Thoughts that may prevent you contacting you GP may be: “I can’t get an appointment” “I don’t want to trouble them” “They’re busy with COVID-19“
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping in touch with your GP will be beneficial for you, and maintaining communications with them can help you when you need medical advice.
Although the UK is currently practicing social distancing and people have been asked to stay home, healthcare services are still running and are still accessible for those who need it.
You can still access medical advice from your GP, from the NHS 111 service or the Acute Oncology Service at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (tel: 01603 64 6799) for those having any cancer treatment related issues, such as side effects of medication, high temperature
If you have any medical emergency, please seek urgent medical help from 999, even if you think your symptoms are related to COVID-19 or not.
Talking to your GP when you have concerns:
Don’t ever feel that you are wasting your GP’s time. If you notice any unusual or persistent changes in how your body is functioning, or see and feel anything visible which concerns you, contact your GP.
It is better to get yourself checked out – even if it is to reassure you and your doctor that there is nothing to worry about. If there are any concerns, your doctor will discuss this with you.
Never feel embarrassed about talking to your doctor about any health issues. They are are used to dealing with a variety of problems.
Here are a few tips which may help you when you attend an appointment:
- Be open. Tell your doctor when a change in your body is not normal for you, even if it doesn’t seem that important or you think it might be a bit embarrassing.
- Be thorough. Mention all your symptoms. Please don’t feel you should dismiss changes as ‘part of getting older’ or assume they are down to another health condition you might have. Cancer is much more common in people over 50 but can affect anyone of any age. Give your doctor as much information as you can.
- Be honest about your symptoms How long have you had them? Are they worse at any specific time of the day? Do you have any pain? How long does it last for?
- Be prepared. Describe any changes, how long you have noticed them and if they have had any impact on you. Write down anything which will help to remind you such as symptoms, signs or if you have taken any medication which you don’t normally take, including any over-the-counter or herbal remedies. It can also help your doctor prioritise your concerns.
Although you may not be able to go to your GP surgery in person, telephone appointments can be booked with either a doctor or nurse. If you have internet access, you can check your surgery website to get advice on how to contact the staff. You may also be able to use their online services to re-order prescriptions or book appointments.
Your health is important. Your GP is your main point of contact for general healthcare. They act as your advocate, supporting and representing your best interests to ensure that you receive the best and most appropriate health care.
Talking to your GP when you have a cancer diagnosis:
When talking to your GP about a cancer diagnosis, it is important to be open and honest about how you feel –
You should always discuss with your GP any concerns you have about how your cancer diagnosis could affect your life, health, well-being and the things you do.
Often, the GP can refer you to the appropriate specialists, and signpost you to other services and organisations who can help you during this difficult time – such as Big C! Call us at 0800 092 7640 (free to call, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm)
Overall, your GP is there to support you through your treatment. GPs can be looked on as gatekeepers, opening those necessary gates for you as and when the need arises to access the appropriate healthcare.
Taking an active role and being proactive in your cancer treatment can help you to get the best care from the team of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers involved in your care.
Think of it like baking a cake. You can’t get the product without having all the ingredients required to achieve it.
If you need support, Big C is still here for you. Call us at 0800 092 7640 (free to call, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm).
Jenny Daly is Cancer Information Clinical Nurse Specialist at Big C.