Patients with non-COVID health problems are being urged not to avoid their GP and get their regular checkups.

Australian Medical Association President, Dr Tony Bartone, said that fear and concern over COVID 19 should not make people ignore their everyday health.

“People need to continue seeing their doctor, in person or via telehealth, for existing conditions and for regular checkups and regular health maintenance,” Dr Bartone said.

“The AMA is very concerned that some Australians are putting off seeing their doctor or getting a test, investigation, or immunisation due to fears of contracting COVID-19. The COVID-19 fear is understandable, but for some people it could mean that a medical condition like cancer or heart disease will go undetected.”

“The consequences of not seeing your doctor for usual care could be life-threatening for many patients.

“The failure to be able to monitor patients with existing conditions could lead to their conditions getting much worse.

“If conditions are not controlled, patients could end up with unplanned visits to hospitals or, in some cases, lifelong or life-threatening complications.

A statement from Cancer Council NSW said: “Healthcare organisations and professional bodies across the country are seeing early reports of a significant decrease in referrals for people with newly diagnosed cancers.

“This is a real cause for concern as treatment can be more effective when cancer is diagnosed early and for some people, a delayed diagnosis could result in poorer outcomes.

“Australians have done the right thing and only left the house when absolutely necessary, but what we don’t want to see is this causing a delay in the early detection of cancers.

“If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms that you are worried about, please contact your health professional. GP offices and healthcare centres are taking all precautions to ensure they are safe to visit.”

BreastScreen NSW has now resumed services and the national cervical and bowel cancer screening programs have continued through the pandemic.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. It kills more people in NSW than prostate cancer, breast cancer or melanoma.

If detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90 per cent of cases, despite this, currently only about 4 in 10 eligible people in NSW take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

The Program is an Australian Government initiative that sends out free bowel cancer screening tests to eligible Australians aged 50– to 74 every two years.

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