Half of UK adults who have possible cancer symptoms do not contact their GP within six months of noticing a change in their body, a survey has revealed.
And according to a YouGov survey for Cancer Research UK, 45 per cent of people who experience ‘red flag’ cancer symptoms, including coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump, have not contacted their GP within six months. .
Early diagnosis can help people survive cancer, but the chances of this happening are greatly reduced if people do not tell their doctor about unusual changes in their health or possible symptoms of cancer.
When colon cancer is diagnosed at stage one, its earliest stage, more than nine in 10 people will survive five years or more, compared with one in 10 when it is diagnosed at stage four, the last stage.
Campaigner Dame Deborah James, who died of colon cancer aged 40 in June, urged people to check their poo to help increase earlier diagnoses.
The shocking figures come as people across the country continue to struggle to get GP appointments.
A major NHS-backed survey last month found that half of sick Britons had not seen their GP for a year, with most saying it was too difficult for them to book an appointment.
And more than 10,000 people wait at least three months to see a hospital doctor with suspected cancer after being referred by their GP.
Half of UK adults who have possible cancer symptoms do not contact their GP within six months of noticing a change in their body, YouGov research for Cancer Research UK has revealed.
45 per cent of people experiencing “red flag” cancer symptoms, including coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump, did not contact their GP within six months
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A major study suggests that biological differences are the real reason for gender differences.
Understanding these differences could help improve prevention and treatment, the researchers say.
The study followed 300,000 middle-aged and older Americans who had been cancer-free for more than 15 years.
Men were more than twice as likely to develop the disease as women – even when lifestyle factors were ruled out.
“This suggests that there are inherent biological differences between men and women that influence susceptibility to cancer,” said lead researcher Dr Sarah Jackson, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute.
The researchers suggested that differences in genes, hormones and the immune system play a role.
From 2020-21, early cancer diagnosis is one of three priority areas for primary care networks, in which local GP practices work in partnership with the community, mental health, social care, pharmacies, hospitals and voluntary services.
One of the key ambitions of the NHS long-term plan, published in 2019, is to have 75 per cent of people with cancer diagnosed early, at stage one or two, by 2028.
Earlier this year, MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee said they did not believe the NHS was on track to meet the government’s target of 75% early diagnosis by 2028 after finding “little evidence of serious effort” that gaps in the workforce for cancer were being dealt with.
The YouGov poll, which surveyed 2,468 people in February and March this year, found that almost half – 1,230 people – said they had experienced a possible symptom of cancer.
Of these 1,230, 50 percent (615 people) had not contacted their GP within six months, 47 percent had and three percent did not want to state in their answer.
Possible symptoms of cancer reported by respondents included a persistent change in bladder or bowel habits, constant fatigue, persistent cough, shortness of breath, non-healing ulcer, and red or white patches in the mouth.
Almost a fifth – 443 participants – experienced red flag cancer symptoms, with 45 per cent not contacting their GP within 6 months, 48 per cent having contacted and 7 per cent not wanting to say.
The survey showed that of those who contacted their GP within six months, 81 per cent of those from a higher socio-economic background were more likely to be successful in making an appointment, compared to 74 per cent of those from a lower socio-economic group.
Those who did not successfully make an appointment include those who tried to call a GP and were unable to make an appointment, did not receive an answer, were not called back or made an appointment but were unable to make an appointment.
According to analysis by Cancer Research UK, an extra 30,000 cancer cases in the UK each year can be attributed to socio-economic deprivation.
Experts believe that people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to have had direct experience with cancer, are more afraid of what a doctor will find, discouraging them from seeking help in the first place.
This leads to them being more likely to be diagnosed through the emergency route, leading to poorer treatment experiences and poorer survival rates.
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Early detection of cancer is vital if more people are to survive, and the first step in this process is getting help at a possible cancer symptom. It is really worrying to see such a wide gap in access to services between the most and least disadvantaged groups in the UK.
“Earlier this year, the government announced that improving early cancer diagnosis and tackling health inequalities were among its top priorities.
“Cancer must remain a top priority and with the forthcoming Health Inequalities White Paper and Ten Year Plan for England, the new Health and Social Care Secretary has a huge opportunity to transform cancer survivorship with a clear and strong plan that works for everyone.”
Cancer Research UK help-seeking expert Professor Katriina Whitaker said: “People from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to face barriers at every stage of cancer care. But the first step to the doctor can seem the most difficult.
“It’s not just about knowing the symptoms, but also about social support, where you live, employment and access to information.
“Campaigns promoting awareness of the symptoms and importance of early cancer diagnosis are great ways to start conversations that lead people or their loved ones to take action. Where necessary, it is important to target groups that are less likely to recognize the symptoms of cancer.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The NHS has launched ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaigns to encourage people with symptoms to come forward and tackle barriers that deter patients from accessing the NHS, and these campaigns have contributed to record referral rates .”
But even when patients with suspected cancer are able to see their GP, more than 10,000 have to wait at least three months before being referred to hospital for a diagnosis.
Leaked NHS documents show that the 104-day wait for a cancer specialist rose from around 8,600 earlier this year to five figures in June.
An analysis by the Health Service Journal found that the longest waits for patents were for suspected breast, skin and lower gastrointestinal cancers.