Britain’s raising cancer risk by not reporting symptoms to GP

Let’s face it, none of us like paying a visit to the doctors, especially if it involves discussing something of an embarrassing nature. However, it has now been found in a survey commissioned by Cancer ResearchUKand carried out by YouGov, that a worrying proportion of Brits put their health at risk by putting off visiting their GP.

The online survey of more than 2,000 adults was part of the ‘Spot Cancer Early’ campaign and it was designed to encourage people to see their GP, sooner rather than later if they notice any unusual or any persistent changes to their body. The campaign also aims to increase awareness of the huge improvements in cancer survival rates, since the 1970s. For instance, today in the UK, you are twice as likely to survive cancer than 40 years ago.

Dr Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said, “We want people to know that you are more likely to survive cancer if it’s found at an early stage. It’s important to get to know your body so you’re familiar with what’s normal for you. If you notice any unusual or persistent changes, it’s really important to take the time to visit your doctor to talk about it.”

“People of all ages who notice a change, that’s persisted for a few weeks, should get it checked out by a doctor. More than likely it won’t be anything to worry about and it’ll be a load off your mind. But if it is something serious, spotting it early can make a real difference, because treatment is often simpler and more likely to be effective. A quick visit to your doctor could save your life.”

These statistics from the YouGov survey show the reasons why we wouldn’t report any unusual or persistent change to our bodies:

  • Not wanting to waste the doctor’s time 19%
  • Thinking that it will go away in its own time 32%
  • Being worried about what the doctor might find 20%
  • Not having time to visit the GP 14%
  • The hassle of getting an appointment with the GP 24%
  • Being embarrassed about the change to my body 14%
  • None of these 29%
  • Don’t know 2%

And these further statistics from the survey demonstrate our attitude towards any changes in our body and where on our list of priorities they would come, by asking the people surveyed, which one of these they would act on soonest:

  • A broken washing machine 3%
  • A lost/ stolen bank card 61%
  • An unusual or persistent change to my body 12%
  • Weeds in the garden 1%
  • An unwell pet 17%
  • A broken mobile phone 2%
  • A leaky tap 1%
  • None of these 1%
  • Don’t know 2%

Cancer is most common in the over 50s, however people of all ages are also at risk, a fact that reinforces the importance of heading to the doctors in the event of spotting anything suspicious. By diagnosing cancer when it is in its infancy, it can, for the most part, be easier to treat, which in turn increases the chances of recovering.

Ann, 77 from Merseyside, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003. She said, “I was diagnosed after my GP referred me for an X-ray following an appointment. I had an operation and now, more than eight years on, I am living a very full and active life doing all the things I enjoy. Catching cancer early is so important. I think if anyone has any signs or symptoms they should see their doctor right away.”

Dr Knight was keen for people to note that any changes in a person’s body, aren’t necessarily synonymous with cancer. In most cases, it probably won’t be all that serious. What is important is for people to get it checked. So in conclusion it is much better to make a wasted trip to the doctor and have peace of mind, rather than allow a treatable cancer develop into full blown cancer, where treatment can no longer help.

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