Middle classes get quicker cancer care

Fear, and worries about wasting doctors' time, delays women in poorer areas from presenting for breast tests, study shows

Poorer women with breast cancer are less likely to be diagnosed quickly than women from affluent homes, according to new research. As a result, every year more than 450 die sooner than if they were diagnosed at the same time as better-off women.

Despite having similar cancers and screening procedures, women from poorer households were diagnosed later than wealthier ones, researchers at Leicester University found. Early diagnosis vastly improves sufferers' chances of surviving the disease.

Researchers suggest that one reason for the different survival rates might be because women from deprived backgrounds delay reporting symptoms to their doctors.

"Such patient delays may reflect differences in awareness, but some may also reflect psychological barriers, such as fear of wasting doctors' time and fear of dying, or impressions of cancer incurability," say the researchers, who studied nearly 21,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Their results showed fewer women in the more affluent groups were diagnosed in the later stages, across all ages. The researchers estimated that 454 deaths could have been postponed beyond five years by eliminating differences in the stage at which they are diagnosed.

"Affluent women were less likely to be diagnosed in an advanced stage," says Dr Mark Rutherford, who led the study. "Relative survival decreased with an increasing level of deprivation," he said.

Reducing inequality when the cancer is diagnosed would result in a "substantial reduction in the number of deaths in the short term", he added. Dr Rutherford said it was important to raise the awareness of cancer signs and symptoms among all women.

Jayant Vaidya, reader in surgery at UCL and a consultant surgeon who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the breast, said: "If all women were diagnosed earlier, it would also mean they would need less-aggressive treatment, with fewer side effects. We know that radiotherapy, for example, can adversely affect the heart, an effect that is particularly important when cancers are diagnosed early.

"I don't believe that access to the treatment is significantly different between classes in the UK, but it may be a combination of factors. The less deprived are generally more health-conscious – eg take more exercise, eat sensibly, and have a more disciplined lifestyle – and this could affect the outcome from cancer.

"This report also shows that more than 70 per cent of cancers were not detected by screening, which suggests that it is not a very efficient way of detecting cancers that matter.

"We need more research into finding cancers at the right time. While increasing awareness will help, it should be done without raising anxiety," he added.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK's statistics manager, said: "This research provides further evidence that deprivation affects a woman's chance of surviving breast cancer. More needs to be done to tackle this inequality to ensure everyone has the same chance of surviving breast cancer, no matter where in the country they live.

"Diagnosing and treating the disease earlier is key to improving a woman's chance of surviving, and we must ensure this is a reality for all."

Suggested Topics
VIDEO
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Brand Manager, Bermondsey

    £32000 - £35000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

    International Brand Manager, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum, Benefits: Bonus: Charter Selection: This rapidly ex...

    English Teacher

    £450 - £750 per annum: Randstad Education Leicester: English teacher required ...

    Humanities Teacher

    £90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education is curren...

    Day In a Page

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

    It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
    Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

    Migrants in Britain a decade on

    They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
    Why musicians play into their old age

    Why musicians play into their old age

    Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
    How can you tell a gentleman?

    How can you tell a gentleman?

    A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
    Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

    Sam Wallace

    Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
    Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

    Through the screen

    British Pathé opens its archives
    The man behind the papier mâché mask

    Frank Sidebottom

    The man behind the papier mâché mask
    Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
    Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

    Boston runs again

    Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
    40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

    40 years of fostering and holding the babies

    In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents