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Worrying cancer symptoms ignored by many patients

More than one in five cancer patients waited longer than three months to discuss their initial symptoms, research has shown.

Rectal bleeding was one of the symptoms in which patients delayed seeing their doctor about, with 35% of people waiting too long, research in the British Journal of Cancer showed. 

In contrast, 90% of patients who experienced blood in their urine booked an appointment with their doctor within three months.

Co-director of the King's College London Early Presentation Group, Dr Lindsay Forbes underlined the importance of spreading the word about cancer symptoms.

She said: “This research highlights that we must do more to make sure the public recognises key symptoms of cancer like unexplained pain, unusual bleeding or weight loss, as well as a lump and make sure they get these checked out as soon as possible.”

Patients with breast cancer were the least likely to put off seeing their GP, while prostate and rectal cancer patients were the most likely.

Unsuccessfully recognising their symptoms as serious was the commonest reason for stalling their visit to the doctor, accounting for 27% of all patients.

Director of early diagnosis for Cancer Research UK, Sara Hiom emphasised the significance of people visiting their doctor as soon as possible after their symptoms.

She said: “The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival and it's essential that people report any symptoms promptly to their GP. No one should be waiting three months before booking an appointment.”

Hiom went onto stress the importance of devoting time and money to the campaigns in raising awareness.

She said: “It's important that we continue investing in our work with both the National Health Service and Public Health England on the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns which are successfully raising awareness of these cancer symptoms and encouraging people to see their doctors.”

The study also found that people living in deprived areas are more likely to stall seeing their doctor, but there was no difference between men and women or young and old patients in the time taken to schedule an appointment to see their GP.