Healthy living

Thousands die from cancer because they delay going to the doctor

Thousands die from cancer because they delay going to the doctor Fear what they might hear

Delaying getting cancer symptoms checked by the doctor could be causing the deaths of thousands of people in the UK, experts have said.

In a survey of more than 2000 people for Cancer Research UK, nearly 40 per cent of people with serious symptoms said they might delay going to the doctor because they were worried what the doctor might find.

And more than 25 per cent said they might delay because they feared wasting the doctor’s time.

But cancer experts said thousands of cancer deaths could have been avoided if the disease had been picked up in the early stages, when it is easier to treat.

The survey also found that more than three quarters of people asked to list possible warning signs of cancer failed to mention pain, coughing or problems with bowels or bladder.

Only around a quarter of those questioned mentioned weight loss or mole changes as being a potential sign of cancer.

[Related story: Key cancer signs identified by scientists]

If Britain matched the best cancer survival rate in Europe, around 11,500 deaths could be avoided, the charity said.

Experts believe a poor record in early diagnosis lies at the heart of why we lag behind.

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: "If patients are diagnosed when the cancer is still in its early stages before it has had a chance to spread to other parts of the body it is more likely that treatment will be successful. That is why it is so important for people to be aware of things that might be early signs of cancer.

"Of course we are all frightened of hearing that we may have cancer. But people need to know that catching the disease early gives them much better odds of surviving it. The best precaution anyone can take is to be on the lookout for any changes in their bodies that seem unusual for them and to get them checked by a doctor.

"We know that in many cases these things won’t turn out to be cancer. But don’t take the gamble of missing out on early diagnosis."

Cancer Research UK has joined with Tesco to raise £10million to fund 32 early diagnosis research projects across the UK. Leaflets on early signs of cancer will be on display at the store's checkouts.

This article was published on Tue 6 March 2012

Image © Arto -

Related Stories

Use this story

Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page