Blood cancer diagnoses could be missed during the pandemic because the symptoms are similar to coronavirus, the Duke of Kent has warned.
Coughing, a fever, tiredness or breathlessness are all symptoms of new cases of blood cancer, but could be dismissed as coronavirus and effectively ignored if people self-isolate and do not attend a doctor’s appointment to be screened.
The Duke, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, said people should use Blood Cancer Awareness Month to get tested if they recognise symptoms of the disease.
“At an especially busy time for the NHS, those experiencing early symptoms may be reluctant to make an appointment with their GP, resulting in far fewer people being diagnosed and treated as soon as they could be,” he said.
“But despite it being the third most common form of cancer, public awareness of the symptoms is perilously low.”
While new cases could be missed because of the similarity of blood cancer and Covid-19 symptoms, existing patients could miss key appointments and place themselves at risk, he warned.
“Those already diagnosed may feel that rather than risking being out in public, they would rather cancel routine appointments, potentially missing crucial signs of developments in their condition,” the Duke said.
The Duke, 84, is the Queen’s cousin and often represents her at official engagements.
He has served as patron of Blood Cancer UK for almost 50 years and has seen “the devastating effect this disease wields on the young and old alike,” he said.
The Duke warned that restrictive Government measures to fight Covid-19 had devastated the charity sector in the UK.
“Not only do the necessary restrictions make it harder than ever for them to deliver their vital services but the reduction in fund raising activities threatens the very existence of many who rely entirely on the generosity of the public,” he said.
The Duke’s warning came as the Prince of Wales encouraged the UK to support Macmillan Cancer Support’s coffee morning, which takes place on Friday.
In a video message, the Prince celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fundraising event that allows people to “raise a cuppa” to those battling cancer and said it represented the “very best of British community spirit”.
“Macmillan works tirelessly across all areas – physical, emotional and financial – to support people when they need it most,” he said.
“Over the years it has become not only a formidable fundraising campaign, raising an incredible £27.4 million last year, but also an invaluable opportunity for friends and family to come together to share experiences and to ‘raise a cuppa’ to those affected by cancer.
“It truly represents the very best of British community spirit – and, in current times, we are learning just how powerful communities can be, especially in a crisis.”
Macmillan has said its flagship coffee morning is facing a £20 million drop in income and a fall of this size could risk more than 80,000 cancer patients missing out on support from a Macmillan nurse next year.
In response to the pandemic and the latest “rule of six” coronavirus guidance, the charity has adapted the event and people can now join in by hosting a socially distanced stall on their doorstep, organising a virtual get-together, taking on a fitness challenge or by uploading a “Raising a Mug” selfie and donating.
The Prince of Wales has been a patron of Macmillan since 1997.