People with potential symptoms of cancer are being urged to seek medical advice after a "significant fall" in the number of referrals at a cancer centre during the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts at the South West Wales Cancer Centre at Singleton Hospital say there has been a two-thirds reduction in referrals due to the pandemic.
Last April, there were 1,218 referrals across all cancer specialties. By April this year, that had fallen to just 409.
referrals in April 2019
referrals in April 2020
Lung cancer referrals, for example, went from 24 to just five.
It is thought people are not turning to their GP for advice because they are worried about the potential risk of contracting Covid-19 if they are referred for hospital tests.
But consultant clinical oncologist Sarah Gwynne said hospitals and GP surgeries were as safe as they could possibly be.
“It’s a difficult time at the moment. People are very scared about possibly coming into hospital or going to see their GP,” said Dr Gwynne.
“We can see that the number of people who would normally be referred with symptoms that are suggestive of cancer have reduced dramatically – we are only seeing a third of what we would expect.
“That makes us think there are patients out there who may possibly have cancer but are not contacting their GP.”
The centre treats patients from across South West Wales, from Bridgend, all the way through Swansea to Carmarthen and as far north as Aberystwyth. Additional services are provided at Morriston and Neath Port Talbot hospitals.
Dr Gwynne said precautions had been taken to protect people coming into hospital from Covid-19 with staff wearing appropriate PPE, while patients may also have their temperature checked before going into clinical areas.