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Why people would delay telling the doctor about symptoms

Research consistently finds that public awareness of the potential symptoms of cancer is worryingly low, and that people feel they would delay telling their GP about potential symptoms because of emotional barriers, such as fear of what the doctor might find, and concern about wasting the doctor’s time.   

In its 2012 report ‘Delay Kills’, Cancer Research UK published the results of the most recent UK national cancer awareness survey, using a set of validated questions called the Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM).  When asked to list possible warning signs of cancer, more than three quarters of people failed to mention pain, coughing or problems with bowels or the bladder.  Asked what might delay them getting symptoms checked out, nearly 40% said worries about what the doctor might find, and 25%, said fear of wasting the doctor’s time.

The ‘small c’ campaign is committed to overcoming these barriers, particularly, the enduring fatalism associated with the disease.  Cancer is still sometimes referred to as the ‘Big C’ because some people have such a fatalistic view of the disease, they can’t even say the word.  When it causes delay, this fatalism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The ‘small c’ campaign is helping to overcome fatalism by raising awareness of the fact that most people survive early stage cancer, and key survival statistics.