TV chef Gordon Ramsay and actress Dame Emma Thompson are among famous faces backing an NHS campaign calling for anyone concerned about cancer to get checked.
The NHS’s Help Us Help You access campaign will use TV adverts, billboards and social media to urge people to speak to their GP if they are worried about a symptom that could be cancer.
It comes as new research found nearly half (48%) of the public would delay or not seek medical help at all in such a situation.
A fifth (22%) said they would not want to be a burden on the health service while a similar number said that fear of getting coronavirus or passing it onto others was a major reason for not getting help.
More than four in 10 people would leave it longer to get health advice than they normally would have before the coronavirus outbreak.
Ramsay said: “As we head into winter, it’s really important that we remember that despite Covid-19, the NHS can still see us safely.
“I was really pleased to help reassure the public and remind them that the NHS is here for them when they need it.”
NHS services have put a range of measures in place so that people can be treated safely throughout the pandemic, including Covid-protected cancer surgery hubs.
Almost one million people referred for cancer checks or have started treatment since the outbreak began.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care in England, said: “Alongside treating 110,000 people with coronavirus, NHS staff have gone to great lengths to make sure that people who do not have Covid can safely access services.
“So whether you or a loved one has a routine appointment, or a potential cancer symptom, our message is clear – you are not a burden, we are here to safely care for you so please don’t delay.”
Steven McIntosh, from charity Macmillan, said: “We cannot say this strongly enough: if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of cancer – say you notice something new or unusual – we urge you to contact your GP straight away.
“Delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment can make it harder to treat the cancer and can also reduce people’s chance of survival.
“Don’t put it off, and don’t think you’re not a priority during coronavirus.”