Cancer fight 'hampered in UK by stiff upper lip'

 
Lung cancer Researchers surveyed nearly 20,000 adults in a number of countries

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The UK's "stiff upper lip" culture may explain why it lags behind other countries when it comes to beating cancer, say experts.

Researchers, who surveyed nearly 20,000 adults in six high-income countries, said they found embarrassment often stopped Britons visiting the doctor.

Respondents in the UK were as aware of cancer symptoms as those in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but more reluctant to seek help, they said.

A third feared wasting a doctor's time.

One in six of the men and women aged 50-and-over surveyed in the UK was embarrassed about sharing their symptoms with a doctor, the researchers from King's College London and University College London, with help from Cancer Research UK and Ipsos Mori, found.

They said, in the British Journal of Cancer, that this may partly explain why the UK has a far lower cancer survival rate than other developed nations, despite good access to skilled medical staff and cutting-edge treatments.

Start Quote

We don't know why British people feel like that. It may be that we are more stoic and have a war-time mentality”

End Quote Dr Lindsay Forbes Lead researcher

The researchers surveyed people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not Scotland.

'UK phenomenon'

Data shows that for cancer survival, the UK ranks behind many countries, including the five other nations looked at in the study.

According to estimates, the lives of more than 5,000 cancer patients could be saved each year in England alone if the country matched the best European survival rates.

Former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley pledged to achieve this target by the next general election in 2015, with the government's cancer strategy.

Lead researcher Dr Lindsay Forbes said: "This is a real UK phenomenon. UK people really stood out in our study.

"As a nation we are much more likely to say we are embarrassed about going to the doctor or we are worried that we will take up a doctor's time.

"We don't know why British people feel like that. It may be that we are more stoic and have a war-time mentality.

"We know that older people in particular can get a symptom and then wait for weeks or months before going to see their doctor."

Sara Hiom, of Cancer Research UK, said the charity "and others are working hard to understand and address these potential barriers to early presentation and encourage people to tell their doctor if they have noticed something different about their body".

"More work also needs to be done to tackle the poor awareness that cancer risk increases with age," she added.

The researchers note that Denmark also ranks relatively low for cancer survival. They suspect this could be due to delays in patients accessing timely hospital care - something which may also apply to the UK to some extent.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 225.

    It's not so much the stiff upper lip as stiff prescription charges and low sick pay (SSP) that stops people visiting their GP. We buy patent medicines rather than be given prescriptions we can't afford, or told to take time off that we can't afford to have.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 224.

    Im so shocked by what Im reading on here. Im 45 so havent really had too many health problems yet but I can see on here there are so many people that have recevied a disgusting service. I hate going to the gp, the receptionists are so rude and even aggresive and the Dr's not really interested. Maybe we should be able have our say on the conduct of GP's

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 223.

    219. annieb some BP medicines cause side affects that are also listed as symptoms of various other illnesses including IBS and BC.

    Your husbands symptoms may have been common to all of the GP's BP patients.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 222.

    Getting past the rottweliers on reception is an achievement with constant reminders of one problem one appointment once with the doctor they just want you back through the door as quickly as possible. The medical profession no longer cares.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 221.

    Our local surgery missed signs of cancer in my husband for months. Diagnosed sciatica when he had Hogdkin's Lymphoma. He was lucky to survive. Our nextdoor neighbour was also told she had sciatica when she had a rare sarcoma (was even refused an xray). She has since died after gruelling treatment failed.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 220.

    Actually the punch list doctors in the US - mostly doctors of internal medicine are just as bad as your GP's. They don't see the people just a list of tests that they can overcharge for.

    Going to these doctors is like taking your car to a Jiffy Lube and expecting the technician to diagnose a major mechanical problem.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 219.

    My husband died of BC 1 year ago today. He went to the doctors every three months for a blood pressure check so very comfortable talking to him. He had classic symptoms of bowel cancer but it took 4 visits over 9 months to be referred. His cancer was at stage 3 and operated on 1 week later.
    When will there be a study to find out how many visits are made to the doctor before a referral is made?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 218.

    I just hope that the NHS management are reading the posts here. There are so many that say that it is impossible to get a proper diagnosis in a reasonable time. The NHS is really the NIS (National Ill Service). There should be much more routine screening and more referrals for diagnostic tests.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 217.

    Wow. The majority of these comments are quite depressing. As an American, I have no experience dealing with your NHS. I believe in universal healthcare and sincerely hope that "Obamacare" works. As for the NHS, isn't there a more efficient way to handle national health care? I mean, there's a time limit when you see a GP? For real?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 216.

    My husband continually went to the GP from Aug 2011 until March 2012 when I took him to A & E and he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and died 7th April 2012 , just 3 weeks after diagnosis. Makes 'bothering' your GP a complete farce !!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 215.

    Sadly Britain fueled by the interests of the tories, business and the right wing press is the most cynical nation in the western world. Anyone who claims to be sick is treated with suspicion. They are given the impression that they are letting their co-workers down etc. Profit for shareholders comes before anything, including health in our broken society.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 214.

    The only thing that puts me off going to hospital or the doctor is waiting times. I'm not patient enough to be a patient. So if it isn't hemorrhaging blood or dropping off, I'm staying at home.
    The NHS, or international health service as it has become, is crippled. Guess why? Too many people on this little island! I think it's about time some of these health tourists were shown the door.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 213.

    I have yet to be impressed by a GP but having had a serious illness in the past I have nothing but praise for the "real" doctors at hospital. The GPs I have come across don't seem to listen properly therefore it is not surprising a lot of people put off going.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 212.

    I dare say the 'stiff upper lip' generation are a dying breed, and it is they who are most conscious of the need not to be wasting NHS resources. Subsequent generations, I believe, demand the full panoply of NHS services as of right; they are NOT the stiff upper lip brigade! So, this problem, such as it is, will be resolved with the passing of time.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 211.

    I have had very bad experiences with doctors in the UK and so have other members of my family. Their training leaves a lot to be desired and their status often leads them to have an arrogant attitude to patients
    On the patient side, i remember my mother dressing up, doing her hair and make up to especially look good for a doctors visit when she was in fact really ill. She wanted to look her best

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 210.

    Wow! what educated person thought this one up?
    Stiff upper lip?
    Is an observers concept of an Englishman!
    Can these people actually SEE that a person is immune etc to illness now??? ie will not be prone to cancer with SUL??
    How about other categories? Greeks? May be prone to Depression?
    Causes, Government?
    The possibilities are endless!!!
    More "expert" stories eh BBC?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 209.

    Whenever I go to the doctor, I am told to come back in 2 weeks if the symptoms persist... symptoms do persist but I don't go back to the doctor as I know I will be sent home again without any diagnosis or attempt at solving the issue. The problem is not the public not going to the doc but doctors not troubling themselves with finding out what is wrong.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 208.

    The trick is to 'train' your GP to listen and discuss matters. If they won't be tamed, change to another one. I have got a trained one at the local surgery, I start training another next week (but he comes recommended, my husband's already trained him).

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 207.

    I have found that the GP's I have seen on the NHS are overworked and exhausted. And if you need a referral for a specialist or additional tests, then be prepared to wait 2-3 months to see the other doctor and an additional 2-3 months for any needed tests. If you have cancer then you're pretty much dead by that point. Go private if you can.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 206.

    robert nickson


    Out of work benefits are the SAME for everyone.....

    ...the only difference with those too ill to work is they don;t have to look for work they are too ill to do.....

    ....disability specific benefits are those that are paid to anyone who qulifies REGARDLESS of whether they work or not, to cover the extra living costs disabilities usually cause.....

 

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