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
    +4

    Comment number 245.

    I was diagnosed with uterine cancer nearly two years ago, but it was purely by accident it was picked up.

    Trying to get an appointment is a lot like pulling teeth. I have been trying to get one for the past three weeks without success.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 244.

    I have cancer grade 3 and it took me 2 years to find the courage to see a doctor about it, not because of stiff upper lip but because, despite huge advances in other fields of medicine, cancer treatment is barbaric and needlessly harmful. 5 years on I am well, having had no other treatment than surgery.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 243.

    Cancer fight 'hampered in UK by stiff upper lip'

    What a superb excuse for incompetant NHS staff.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 242.

    Don't play the 'stiff upper lip' and become a stiff sooner than otherwise!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 241.

    BBC cricket commentator Geoff Boycott is absolutely right when he says: "My message to people is don’t delay and don’t think your symptoms are going to go away as if some fairy has waved a magic wand. For God’s sake go to a doctor, and if you are not satisfied with his answer, then get yourself to a specialist. The sooner they get hold of the cancer, the more chance you have of surviving.”

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 240.

    I went, without an appointment, to see my NHS doctor on Monday this week, I was sent straight away for an ECG and a blood test, these were both done by 1pm the results were all back by Tuesday and I am waiting for the result of a stool test and a non urgent appointment for an endoscopy. All done or set up within two days. If my GP center can do it so can all the others, why don't they?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 239.

    This stiff upper lip finding is a dangerous diversion. It is due to the lack of investment in preventative medicine. Under US insurance there are radiological screens for colon, breast, skin, lungs covered annually and semi annually by the insurance most have.. NHS says this is dangerous-really it is the money. Funny, preventative medicine saves money. Get more screening and things will change.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 238.

    Our cats get better treatment. One had cancer diagnosed whist having a flu booster - yet he appeared in perfect health. Operation the next day. A GP could not do that and the operation would take months. Our other cat had a blood test. Blood analysed on-site within an hour. Thyroid medication given and we came home. Not possible with NHS standards. And the vets and receptionists friendly.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 237.

    Firstly I would dispute the 'stiff upper lip' as a general label.

    I would observe a whining, whimpering, run off to the doctor at the drop of a hat syndrome. And let's not forget stories of ambulance calls made for the most ludicrous of reasons.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 236.

    On the other hand my mother was diagnosed promptly given endless support and recieved world class treatment .
    The two differences being womens cancer charities and different hospitals .

    My fathers treatment would scare most people away from seeking treatment . Luckily I have also seen the other side of the nhs

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 235.

    15 yrs ago I went to the Dr with a suspected lump,initially was diagnosed a fluid cyst,after two further visits to my GP I was referred to urology where further tests revealed a possible tumour.
    Surgery revealed testicular seminoma.
    To any one who is not sure,visit your GP,I'm pleased I did and so are my wife and children,sometimes you have to push to get things done.
    Btw nhs after care was superb

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 234.

    My father went to hospital with pains and was told " you have got a large mass , we do not know what it is ,and couldn't do any thing about it if we could " .
    After two months at home with no diagnosis just morphine he was taken to a diferent hospital who said he would be home after two days . Finaly got his diagnosis four hours before he died .

    two hospitals where no one appeared to care .

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 233.

    As far as I am aware, the UK and Denmark are the only two countries in Europe that have a "free-at-the-point-of-delivery" health system. The rest are insurance based. Something to bear in mind?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 232.

    The lack of care and ability to diagnose will only get worse when GP's are responsible for budgets once this happens they won't be prepared to pay for treatment - god help us.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 231.

    Not got a doctor, not registered with one. Not seen one since a child. So I would probably have to be dead to go to one. Sat with my mother as she died from cancer, after having done everything 'right' seeing doctors, surgery, etc. always ate the 'right' stuff, never smoked,drank,or overweight.

    We all die, pretty randomly, no big deal when. Stats are for govs and orgs to show off about.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 230.

    If the government is so intent in finding a cure, then why do they persist in adding dangerous ingredients in our food, such as Sodium Nitrite, and Aspartame? And before a chemist comes along and states there is no proof of this, well there is no evidence to show these are harmless either. so why experiment on the population.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 229.

    Sorry Graham, my definition if complain does not mean moaning! By complaining, I mean actually making a complaint in writing. People moan but they do not make a complaint partly because they worry about the consequences to them.
    Complain and make them take action. The NHS has processes incl a complaints process from which they must learn.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 228.

    I visited my then GP some time ago as I had some concerns. On expressing those concerns his first reply was "then I suppose you must have cancer" At that point I nearly walked out of his surgery.
    I was given a brief examination then told to go away and stop looking at American websites.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 227.

    I may just be unlucky but I've had many experiences where the doctor has made me feel like I am wasting their time. This is the reason why I am now reluctant to go to GPs to get checked, because of how they have made me feel. I have had 1 or 2 brilliant GPs in the past who seem like they genuinely care, but unfortunately this is really rare. Most of the time I feel I am rushed and unimportant.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 226.

    ive been lied to, given medications for diseases ive not had, and been told on 2 occasions to "take the pills for the rest of my life."
    Doctors are a "tool" i use with a great degree of mitrust.

 

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