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Friday 28th October 2016

Britons Ignore Symptoms of Serious Illness for Fear of Wasting GPs Time

27th September 2012
Research published by Bupa reveals that two in five people (39%) have delayed visiting their doctor; even if they believed their symptoms could be potentially serious.  The study also identified that the unemployed are the most likely to delay visiting a GP (50%) when potentially grave symptoms appeared - even though early stage diagnosis is associated with better survival rates for many diseases, including cancer.

Over half of Britons say they have put off having their symptoms checked out because they hoped they would ‘simply go away’, with 1 in 10 saying they had delayed making an appointment due to embarrassment.  One in three people (32%) put off having their worrying symptoms checked out because they didn’t want to waste their GP’s time and three in ten (29%) delayed calling the doctor because it was difficult to make an appointment or find a convenient time.

Yet, early stage diagnosis can be hugely important especially in cases where Department of Health figures show that of those diagnosed early with bowel cancer (England’s third most common cancer), more than nine out of ten people survive for at least five years, compared with less than one in ten (6%) of those diagnosed at a late stage. However Bupa’s survey shows that less than half of people (44%) would make an appointment with their GP if they noticed a change in their bowel habits over a few weeks – a common symptom of the illness.

The research also revealed that potentially serious symptoms could be going unchecked owing to a lack of awareness of what to look out for. Well-known serious symptoms including unexpected lumps or a change in a mole were more likely to prompt a trip to the GP, but other serious symptoms - which could turn out to be more significant than they seem - were less likely to do so:

  •     Five in ten people (53%) would not make an urgent appointment if they suffered a persistent cough or hoarseness that lasted for more than a few weeks.
  •     People aged over 55 were more aware of most symptoms listed apart from impotence – only one in six of over-55s (16%) would visit the doctor about impotence, compared to one in three 18-24 year olds (32%). Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other medical conditions so it’s very important for men to talk to their doctor about it.
  •     Four in ten people (42%) would not make an urgent appointment if they suffered unexplained weight loss.

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