Two In Five Brits Confused About Common Cancer Symptoms

Thomas Tamblyn

A staggering two in five Britons are confused about symptoms caused by the most common cancers in the UK, reveals new research by Bupa.

As a result, two in five (38%) people have never checked themselves and less than half (48%) look for symptoms of cancer at least once a month.

This translates to delayed diagnosis, with more than six million putting off going to the doctor and two million later going on to be diagnosed with cancer.

Dr Raj Chand GP, from Garden City Surgery, Letchworth, Hertfordshire examines and records a lump on Suzanne Roynon-Hunter's face, whose image is then emailed to Nick James, the Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Lister Hospital, Stevenage. The new system can also detect very early skin cancers that otherwise might go untreated. By spotting such a problem early, patients can be treated quickly.

What was perhaps really striking was the variation in people’s knowledge depending on the type of cancer they were supposed to be looking for.

When it comes to the most common cancers, the difference in knowledge of symptoms was stark. Almost half (45%) of all women check for breast cancer at least once a month and one third (34%) of men say they regularly check for testicular cancer. Yet the research found that symptoms of bladder and pancreatic cancer are far less understood.

Of the most common cancers, the least understood was pancreatic with 68% admitting that they didn’t know any of the symptoms. Just under half don’t know the symptoms for bladder cancer, while 32% don’t know the symptoms for lung cancer.

“Half the population is expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime making early diagnosis and treatment so important to improving someone’s outcome,” said Dr Luke James, Medical Director at Bupa.

Bupa’s official advice revolves around three simple points:

1. Change

Is something about your body different or unusual? Is something new, or does something feel ‘wrong’ to you? Trust yourself to know what is right and wrong and seek help.

2. Unexplained

Can you pinpoint why something has changed, why you are feeling physically unwell? If not, it is worth further investigation.

3. Persistent

Have you been experiencing this or feeling unwell for longer than two weeks? Watch out for the symptoms that you can’t shake off. 

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