‘WOMEN need to be more assertive than ever’ – that’s the message from a breast cancer survivor who has branded a hospital trust’s record low number of patients seen on time ‘unacceptable’.

The proportion of suspected breast cancer patients seen on time at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay fell to a record low for the month of December, figures show.

NHS England data shows 212 patients with suspected breast cancer were referred by GPs for urgent investigations at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust in December.

But just three (1 per cent) were seen by a consultant within the recommended two-week window – the lowest figure for the month since records began in 2009.

NHS figures show just two-thirds of patients with breast cancer symptoms (when cancer was not initially suspected) were seen within two weeks in December – also a record low.

At the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, 50 such patients were referred by GPs in December, with two seen within two weeks.

At just 4 per cent, this was down from 15 per cent the same month the previous year.

Breast cancer survivor, Adele Dean, was diagnosed five years ago after discovering a lump in the shower.

The 55-year-old retired nurse is urging others not to be a ‘statistic that slips through the net’.

She said: “When I found a lump, I went straight to my doctor’s and initially was told not to worry. I did and was worried so I followed my instinct and went straight to see a different doctor who sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I knew instinctively this lump was something nasty.

“I can’t urge people enough to go with your gut instinct, don’t be fobbed off.

“It’s your life, your body and ultimately you are responsible for it’s upkeep no one else.

“Don’t pass the responsibility to the health team – they are human and can make mistakes like the rest of us.

“So listen to yourself if you’re worried go and see someone else. Take control , don’t be intimidated. Don’t be a statistic that slips through the net.”

Mrs Dean said during the Covid-19 pandemic, women need to be ‘more assertive than ever’ when seeking a medical opinion.

She said: “I think in the current climate with Covid, women have a fight on their hands and need to be more assertive than ever.

“If you are worried don’t accept that you can’t see your GP until next month.

“A lump is a priority and you need to be seen as exactly that. Don’t wait more than a couple of days to see your GP and then you should be automatically put on to the two week wait system.

“If it gets to two weeks and you haven’t heard keep phoning them.

“Make a noise and don’t be frightened to do so. Only you can fight your battle don’t expect anyone else to do it.

“The apathy of the NHS in tackling early diagnosis is not acceptable.

“Covid -19 is deadly but so is cancer if not caught early. Breast cancer can be sorted if you have an early detection.

“It’s not acceptable – don’t sit back and think the health service will rally round and sort you out and leave it to them. At the moment with Covid there’s no guarantee so be assertive.

“Don’t slip through the cracks, take responsibility for your own health.”

An NHS spokeswoman said hospitals carried out more than two cancer procedures for every coronavirus patient they treated in 2020.

She added: “These figures show people should come forward if they have a worrying symptom because the NHS has, even at the highest point of the second wave of the pandemic, maintained capacity to carry out cancer checks and support people to start treatment.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a priority throughout the pandemic, with £150 million provided in October to allow the NHS to expand diagnostic capacity.

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