Health professionals have raised concerns that Hunter residents are not seeking important medical attention during the COVID-19 crisis.
Lung Diagnostic Clinic lung cancer coordinator nurse Amy Tipping said her clinic had experienced about a 50 per cent drop in GP referrals from March to May, creating fears that residents may have experienced symptoms of lung cancer, but haven't sought medical help.
The clinic, which is based at Calvary Mater Newcastle, receives referrals from GPs and health providers for patients who are suspected of suffering lung cancer.
Ms Tipping said she believed a lot of people were shying away from seeing their GP during the height of the pandemic, due to fears of exposure to the coronavirus.
"A lot of people were frightened to leave their homes, especially the at-risk population," she said.
"People may have been downplaying their symptoms."
But Ms Tipping said it was crucial for people who were experiencing symptoms to seek medical attention, as it could save their life.
"Lung cancer is often diagnosed late," she said.
"The symptoms can be vague or non-specific. Often people think it could be the common cold.
"But if diagnosed early, the chance of survival is much higher.
Ms Tipping said things to look out for were breathlessness, a new and persistent cough and coughing up blood.
Awabakal Aboriginal Medical Service is also urging people with chronic health conditions to attend regular appointments and speak to medical staff, with professionals concerned that patients may have missed important medical appointments during lockdown restrictions.
Similar to the Lung Diagnostic Clinic, Awabakal Aboriginal Medical Service CEO Raylene Gordon said she had seen a decrease in people accessing health services through the pandemic.
She said a lot of chronically ill patients were so consumed and panicked by COVID-19, that appointments may have fell by the wayside.
"Especially older clients, who may be homebound and reluctant to leave home," she said.
"It's particularly important during this period that we all continue to stay in touch with our healthcare providers about any concerns we might have about our health."
Ms Gordon said the service had been doing targeted follow ups with patients to alert them of all the options available to them for health support.
"Health services have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing telehealth services, by doing home visiting services and by having phone consultations with your GP to discuss any concerns," she said.
"We are having to respond differently during this period to keep people and communities safe. Some of this involves social distancing, personal protective equipment, temperature checks, and phone consultations."
Resources to support Aboriginal communities are available at nsw.gov.au or call Service NSW on 13 77 88.
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