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09
Dec
Patients unaware of cancer symptoms

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Couple with doctor Large

Research funded by Cancer Research UK at the University College London, suggests that patients often fail to recognise the warning signs of cancer.

The findings of this study suggest that more needs to be done to raise public awareness of symptoms which may indicate cancer. It suggests that patients may be unaware of the potential seriousness of their illness and may fail to seek medical help, leading to a delay in their diagnosis.

Cancer survival in the UK is below the European average, which has been partly attributed by some to the vast numbers of patients being diagnosed at a later stage through emergency referrals. For almost all types of cancer earlier diagnosis results in an improvement in both one-year and five-year survival rates. Whilst this study suggests that 60% of the patients visited a doctor as a result of their symptoms even though they were unaware that they may suggest a possibility of cancer, that means 40% of patients could be delaying their diagnosis and reducing their chances of survival by failing to seek medical help quickly enough.

Particularly worrying was a lack of recognition of some of the more obvious symptoms, such as unexplained lumps. Whilst most people with warning signs do not have cancer, for those that do this could be having a hugely detrimental impact on their chances of survival. In order to be in the best possible position, patients need to visit their GPs at the first sign of a suspicious symptom.

Unfortunately, the problems in public awareness are being further exacerbated by difficulties in diagnosis. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have recently issued draft guidance calling for an increase in the number of cancer referrals.

However, because GPs see very few cancer cases each year and there are over 200 different types of cancer with very varying symptoms, it can be very difficult to diagnose. To see more information on this issue, see our news article here.

Monica Izmajlowicz, Leukaemia CARE Chief Executive, said: “The findings of this study suggest that more needs to be done to make the general public aware of the warning signs of cancer. We believe that earlier diagnosis for patients is the key to improving cancer survival rates. This requires patients to be aware of worrying symptoms, so that they visit their GP at the earliest possible opportunity.”

View the original article here.