South Shields' long-running cancer charity has, however, continued to provide some degree of service through the entire pandemic period.
Now, the third-sector organisation is urging residents with concerns over the condition to come forward and make the most of the services on offer, as the UK’s health service attempts to recover following the pressures of the past 18 months.
According to the Office for National Statistics, even before the outbreak of the viral pandemic in the UK, the North East had the highest regional rates of cancer incidence nationwide – with South Tyneside and Sunderland both displaying levels well above national average.
The charity’s co-founder, Reg Hall, who continues to volunteer at the borough centre, told The Gazette that residents could now attend the centre without any prior bookings, as was previously the case.
“Before Covid [hit the area], about 500 new people would come to Cancer Connections each year,” he said.
"Working from home, we were able to provide counselling and information around cancer. But we weren’t of course able to see people face to face.
"The point about Cancer Connections is that it’s an open house – we have a lovely premises and we try to provide a warm, welcoming experience to anyone who knows someone with the condition and are struggling somehow with it. People can just come along as they used to.”
The Cancer Connections premises has now reopened on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the rebooted drop-in visits.
Mr Hall underlined that all staff at the centre are continuing to exercise ‘caution’ around infection control, adding that social distancing is still adhered to and that all visitors take a lateral flow test upon arrival at the site.
He stressed that now is the time to come forward for anyone whose life has been impacted by cancer or who thinks they might have cancer symptoms in South Tyneside.
“It’s becoming clear that for a lot of people their diagnosis of cancer has been delayed for all sorts of reasons,” Mr Hall also said.
"The local hospitals are doing their best to catch up now. So if anybody has any symptoms that might suggest cancer, they really mustn’t hold back anymore – they really must contact their GP and they can then get on with the necessary investigations.
"And if they struggle with that – if they want to know more about it or have a chance to talk about it with someone - then, by all means, we are open and we’d love to see them at Cancer Connections.”