People at greater risk of death due to embarrassment over cancer symptoms

‘Early diagnosis and treatment of a cancer can reduce the need for more complex and invasive treatments, and we believe it is key to improving survival rates’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Wednesday 09 January 2019 01:03
Comments
Four out of 10 cancer patients initially misdiagnosed, finds report warning of pressures in testing

Millions of British people are delaying getting their cancer symptoms checked due to embarrassment, putting them at increased risk of death.

New research suggests a fifth of UK adults – around 6.6 million people – have put off seeking medical advice.

Experts warn that delays in diagnosis can have a major impact on the success of treatment, and urged people to overcome their shame to ensure the best results.

Bowel cancer, one of the conditions linked to symptoms seen as “embarrassing”, has one of the lowest survival rates in the country.

Other potential cancer symptoms viewed as shameful included irregular vaginal bleeding, pains in the groin and blood while urinating.

A survey by the healthcare provider Bupa revealed the full extent of British people’s shame around certain cancer symptoms.

The results showed the “embarrassment factor” was responsible for delays of around two months on average between noticing symptoms and contacting a health professional.

Some symptoms, such as changes in bladder or bowel habits, led to even longer delays of up to 10 weeks.

Over a half of those who were nervous about visiting the doctor said they did not know how to start a discussion with their doctor, a third said they would rather talk over the phone and a similar number said they would rather get their advice online.

These results are particularly concerning given the UK’s poor record when it comes to timely cancer diagnosis.

“Early diagnosis and treatment of a cancer can reduce the need for more complex and invasive treatments, and we believe it is key to improving survival rates,” Julia Ross, head of cancer care at Bupa UK told The Independent.

Georgina Hill from Cancer Research UK said while there are many reasons why certain cancers have higher mortality rates, early diagnosis was definitely a key factor.

“Early diagnosis of cancer is really important because treatment is more likely to work at an early stage – this is because the cancer is more likely to be smaller and to not have spread,” said Ms Hill.

She said the research by Bupa was the latest to show how embarrassment was holding up the early detection of cancers in the UK.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Ms Ross said: “When you notice something’s not right with your body it can be daunting, whatever the symptoms.

“It’s important to remember that the role of medical professionals is to help you understand your body, providing you with peace of mind or signposting you to the most appropriate treatment and support for your condition.”

Health professionals recommend not only coming forward early with any potential symptoms, but also participating in screening programmes.

“Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer, and there is a screening programme for people who don’t have symptoms,” said Ms Hill.

Previous research has shown that when bowel cancer is detected and treated at stage one, 95 per cent of people will survive five years, a figure that falls to just 7 per cent for stage four.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in