As an NHS worker who heads up the engagement team at Joined Up Care Derbyshire, Karen Lloyd is very much aware of the impact of Covid-19. “I know all about the infection rates, but when I found a lump in my breast it never stopped me from thinking I need to get in touch with my GP,” said Karen, who lives in Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire. “Cancer needs to be caught early if you are going to have a chance of a good outcome, so it was an immediate reaction for me to ring up the GP,” Karen adds.

Face to face GP appointments were being offered only if it was absolutely necessary. “When I called my GP Practice, the receptionist said that they would get the GP to give me a call,” Karen explains. “The GP called me back within half an hour and chatted everything over with me on the phone. He was very reassuring and said that lumps can be for lots of different reasons but obviously it could be cancerous, and we need to get it checked out as soon as possible.” 

Karen only had to wait a week to be seen at the breast clinic. It was a safe environment with the clinic making the best use of all the waiting rooms. Self distancing was paramount, but there were seats available where people from the same household could sit together.

There were no more than two people in the waiting room at any one time as the clinic manages their appointments in a safe and timely way. “We were reminded all the time to keep our masks on and to use the hand sanitiser. Safety was their top priority,” says Karen. “All the tests were done within my given time slot. I had a mammogram and ultrasound, so I didn’t have to go backwards and forwards as it was all done during that time.”

For Karen, it was a very positive outcome. “Thankfully they were able to reassure me that it was only a cist and they would get rid of it straight away on that day as well.”

If Karen had stayed away and not called the GP she would still have been worried now. “In my mind I kept thinking it’s just a cist because I’m a very positive person, but in the back of my mind there were all these worries about what if it’s not,” says Karen. “When I was told the good news at the clinic, I actually felt a bit ill because I’d been holding all that worry and stress and it all kind of came out. For sure, holding all that stress inside you is not good for your wellbeing and it’s important to take action right away.”

Karen also accompanied Arnold, her partner’s Stepdad to the clinic as well. Arnold was shielding and had not gone out for many months. Karen was impressed with the arrangements that were in place at the clinic. “There were hand sanitisers, we were kept apart from everybody else in the waiting room and people were wearing masks. Personally, I don’t think people need to be concerned at all,” Karen says. There was good news for Arnold too which took a huge weight off his mind and he received treatment that same day.

Karen’s message to other people who are in the same situation is clear. “If you are worried about cancer symptoms then don’t hesitate. The health professionals are being really careful. Not only is your health a top priority in terms of treating any symptoms of cancer, ensuring that you are safe from Covid-19 infection is equally paramount. There is more to worry about by not getting symptoms checked out in terms of both your physical and mental health than there is going along and getting it sorted out. It will all be done and hopefully will be over within a day.”