health

'Cancer is still going to happen.' 5 signs you should see your GP, even during a pandemic.

Right now, people are worried about seeing their GP, and rightly so.

Social distancing measures and the stay home message seem to have filtered through to most and the clear message is stay at home unless you need to leave for exercise, essential work, picking up crucial supplies or attending important appointments.

As a GP, I want you to know seeing your doctor is definitely still an important reason to leave your home. Lots of people are scared and particularly nervous about going to see their GP because of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 but there are now many things GP clinics are doing to not only protect their patients, but also their staff (doctors, nurses, admin).

WATCH: All your COVID-19 questions, answered. Post continues after video.

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Putting off seeing your doctor for a breast lump you discover, a spot on your arm that looks like it’s changed size recently, rectal blood loss or worsening depression is not ideal, and the current pandemic should not stop us from getting things checked out by our doctor. It also should not stop you from keeping your chronic medical condition in check.

We all still need to look after our physical and mental health. So, what’s the deal with seeing your GP right now?

Do you have an ongoing health condition?

COVID-19 is a serious issue right now but conditions like bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, measles and high blood pressure have not simply disappeared – they’re all still problems that we need to keep preventing and managing.

If you have a chronic medical condition (like asthma) and you still require frequent reviews, some may be done via Telehealth consults but some may require you to go into the clinic. Having your chronic disease well-managed is still crucial.

 

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Do you have a scheduled vaccine?

Scheduled vaccines (and additional ones) are still vital. Yes, COVID-19 is scary but so are measles and whooping cough. Some councils are still immunising kids but if you want additional ones (like meningococcal B) you’ll likely need to see your doctor.

We will be going to our GP for my son’s four-month immunisations when they are due so he can also get his second dose of the meningoccal B vaccine.

Do you have a breast check or pap smear coming up?

Cancer prevention is essential – a cervical cancer screening test (formally known as a Pap smear) or a mammogram should go ahead if it’s due.

Cervical cancer and breast cancer are STILL going to happen despite COVID-19 and these tests prevent them.

Are you feeling down, depressed or anxious?

If you think you are persistently low in your mood and energy levels, and your outlook on life and the future is consistently negative, then you should ideally seek help from your doctor or psychologist.

It’s also not uncommon as a GP for a patient to present with fatigue and for an underlying mood disorder like generalised anxiety disorder or major depression to be uncovered. It’s really important right now to keep a close eye on your mental health.

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Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia’s daily news podcast, where Dr Norman Swan from ABC’s Coronacast takes us through the three possible ways Australian quarantine might end. Post continues below.

Have you noticed a new bump, lump or bleeding?

Some stuff can be done via Telehealth (video or phone consults) with your GP but some stuff just can’t be (vaccinations, examinations). Please don’t ignore a breast lump/rectal blood loss or unexplained weight loss (for instance) because of the current situation – you still need to see your doctor.

If you’re feeling scared, I don’t blame you. I’m scared too. But I’ll be taking my son to the clinic for his schedule (and extra) immunisations and a weigh-in soon. I know that the GP clinic we attend, like the one I work at when I’m not on maternity leave, has taken lots of extra steps to keep well people well and reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19.

For one thing, many GPs are doing most of their consults via Teleconsulting (video or phone consults) so there are less people physically going through clinics right now. Less people in waiting rooms, less people touching surfaces, less people going through the consulting rooms. Lots of clinics are also avoiding people waiting in the waiting room – instead you may be called from your car when the doctor is ready for you – again minimising time around others.

The last thing you want is the pandemic to pass and your mental and physical health to have deteriorated, so please, don’t let your health issues fester. Don’t ignore your health issues because of fear right now and don’t wait until coronavirus is over to talk to your doctor.

We want you to come out of this in one piece.

Dr. Preeya Alexander aka The Wholesome Doctor is a GP based in Melbourne. She is passionate about all things ‘prevention’ in medicine. You can follow her on Instagram, via her blog and her Facebook

Feature Image: Instagram / @thewholesomedoctor

Read more on COVID-19

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time.

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