Cancer survivor says people should not fear contacting GPs during Covid-19 crisis

HSE concerned as number of patients referred to hospital drops 57% since lockdown

Cancer survivor Redmond Maguire has said it is “scary” that people with potential signs or symptoms of the disease are putting off going to their GP due to coronavirus.

Mr Maguire (56), from Midleton, Co Cork, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. He had visited his GP the previous year about his blood pressure when a locum doctor noticed in his medical notes that he suffered with headaches for a long time.

“The headaches had nothing to do with my diagnosis but she said to me would I go for tests. I went for various respiratory, heart and kidneys tests. Somewhere along the line, something showed up on an X-ray. I went for an MRI scan, then a biopsy. From the biopsy it was confirmed as pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Mr Maguire underwent surgery, known as the Whipple procedure which removed part of his pancreas and then completed six months of chemotherapy. He was given the all-clear earlier this year.



“It was purely my going to the doctor and the insistence of the doctor to get the headaches checked out. That’s how there was a diagnosis, I had no symptoms whatsoever of being ill. I didn’t feel any different and was working right up until the right before my operation,” he added.

The HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme has urged anyone with potential signs and symptoms of cancer to telephone their GP. The average number of patients with suspected breast, lung, prostate and skin cancer being referred weekly to hospital clinics dropped by 57 per cent following the introduction of Covid-19 restriction measures.

The HSE said there has been a “slight increase” in the numbers being referred in the past week but it remains concerned people are not contacting their GPs as they may be fearful of attending healthcare services.


“It is scary to see people are holding off,” Mr Maguire said. “I understand they are conscious and afraid of going into surgeries or into hospitals but everything is in place, everyone is doing their best. It shouldn’t really stop anyone going and visiting the GP.

“In terms of pancreatic cancer, there are very few symptoms and when symptoms do raise their head, it’s too late in a lot of cases and it’s gone into the organs too far and treatment is a hard thing to go through.

“I was one of the lucky ones and it was purely due to the insistence of the locum doctor in Ballycotton that I went for the test and from there that it showed up.”

The Irish Cancer Society’s support line (1800 200 700) is open seven a days a week for anyone who has a concern.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times