Addressing COVID-19 barriers to Finding Cancer Early

Find Cancer Early has launched a new social media campaign targeting people over 40 in regional Western Australia. The campaign aims to encourage people to see their health professional with any new or persistent symptom that could be cancer and to address some of the frequently asked questions concerning accessing medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be putting off seeing your doctor about new symptoms, but that’s not a good idea. Cancer does not stop or slow down for a global pandemic.

If your symptom involves blood, such as coughing up blood or blood in your poo or blood in your pee, Or, if you have any of these symptoms for more than four weeks:

It’s important to see your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker now rather than putting it off! It doesn’t mean you’ve got cancer – often, it turns out to be something less serious, but telling your doctor straight away ensures any further investigation or treatment can begin as soon as possible. If it is cancer, the earlier it’s found, the better the treatment options and outcomes.

Frequently asked questions:

“Can’t my symptom wait until after COVID-19 blows over?”

Cancer does not stop or slow down for a global pandemic. If you have a cancer symptom, it’s important to seek medical advice now rather than waiting any longer. This ensures any further investigation or, in some cases, treatment can begin as soon as possible. If it is cancer, the earlier it’s found, the better the chance of successful treatment.

“What is my cough and shortness of breath? Is it cancer, COVID-19 or common cold?”

It is important to remember that while respiratory symptoms may be due to a common cold, flu or COVID-19, they may also be lung cancer, which is why an appropriate investigation is necessary.

GPs play an important role in the identification of lung cancer, so we encourage people with shortness of breath or a persistent cough that has lasted more than four weeks to contact their GP without delay and discuss their concerns. It is important that you tell your GP everything about your cough and whether you have any other symptoms such as unexpected weight loss, fatigue or loss of appetite. Remember, they are there for you as usual. GP practices have put in place measures to manage patients who present with respiratory symptoms in the context of COVID-19.

“Is it safe to see health professionals at the moment?”

Many GPs are doing more appointments on the phone or online instead of face to face. This is to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to them and their patients. When you speak to them, they will ask about your symptoms and tell you if you need to go into the surgery to see a GP.

They may suggest that you keep an eye on your symptoms and arrange another appointment to check in with them after a certain amount of time. So make sure you know when and how to contact them. And contact them again if your symptoms get worse or don’t get better.

GP clinics, pathology/diagnostic centres and hospitals are experts in both preventing and detecting infectious diseases. They follow best practices to minimise the risk of transmission of all infections, including COVID-19. Your general practices or health centre might look a little different, but the changes are designed to reduce risk and keep everyone well. Changes may include staff wearing masks and/or asking people to wait outside or in their car to keep space between patients. If you are concerned, ask the receptionist when you call about what to expect at the clinic and what steps they have put in place to keep you safe.

Further information about Telehealth can be found at:

“If I have to go to Perth for cancer treatment, where will I stay?”

Cancer Council WA has two self-catering accommodation lodges in Perth for cancer patients and their carers from regional WA to stay at while they access treatments and appointments in the Perth metropolitan area. A range of social distancing and hygiene protocols are in place for guest safety.

For more information about these facilities, costs, and financial assistance, visit

“Is it safe to travel to Perth?”

It’s best to discuss any concerns about your personal susceptibility to infection with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to provide personalised advice about any specific precautions you should take in whilst travelling to and staying in Perth. These may include methods of travel or additional distancing measures.

“Is there anything I can do to prepare for my Telehealth appointment?”

Yes. This video created by Cancer Council Australia offers five helpful tips on preparing for a smoother Telehealth appointment, and this video created by Cancer Research UK also provides good tips on what to do to get the most out of your Telehealth appointment.