‘Patients delay seeing doctor over most worrying cancer symptoms’

11 June 2014

Some cancer patients waited too long to see their doctor about some of the most worrying symptoms of cancer, suggests a new study published in British Journal of Cancer.

Researchers discovered that 35 per cent of patients left it too long before seeing their GP to discuss bleeding from the bottom, which can in some cases be a sign of early stage bowel cancer.

Furthermore, over 90 per cent waited for up to three months to book an appointment with their doctor if they discovered blood in their urine - a symptom of bladder, prostate and kidney cancer.

Scientists were also shocked to discover that one in five cancer patients had waited more than three months to see their GP about many other indications they may have developed the disease.

Upon closer analysis, the research team determine that the most common reason - cited by 27 per cent of all patients - for a delayed doctor’s appointment was failing to realise how serious their symptoms actually were. 

Of those surveyed, only six per cent said they were too embarrassed to speak to their GP and the same proportion believed they would be wasting the doctor’s time.

Over 2,370 patients with 15 different cancers were interviewed about the symptoms that led to their original diagnosis. There was absolutely no difference in the time it took to consult a doctor between men and women or the old and young.

Interestingly, the study discovered that delays were far more common among patients living in the most deprived areas of the country, compared to those residing in affluent regions. 

The research also revealed that patients with prostate or rectal cancer were most likely to delay seeing a doctor, whereas those diagnosed with breast cancer were the least likely.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease among men, with 40,000 new cases being diagnosed every year in the UK. Rectal cancer is the third most prevalent form among both the male and female population in this country, with over 40,000 new cases being discovered annually.

In response to the findings, Dr Lindsay Forbes, co-director of the King’s College London Early Presentation Group, commented: “This research highlights that we must do more to make sure the public recognises key symptoms of cancer like unexplained pain, unusual bleeding or weight loss, as well as a lump, and make sure they get these checked out as soon as possible.

“Although a worrying number of patients across society are waiting too long to go to their doctor, it is those in the most deprived areas that are most likely to delay.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of Early Diagnosis, added that the research highlighted how vital it is that everyone is aware of the symptoms linked to cancer because the earlier it is diagnosed the better the prognosis, generally. She stresses that nobody should be waiting three months before making an appointment to see their GP if they begin to see indications of the disease.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.

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