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Some patients with cancer symptoms 'delay GP visit by three months'


One in five cancer patients wait more than three months before visiting a doctor about their symptoms, a new study suggests.

Twenty one percent of patients who took part in the study waited for at least three months before raising the issue with a medical professional.

Researchers found patients with prostate cancer and rectal cancer were most likely to delay while breast cancer patients were the least likely, according to the research, published in the British Journal of Cancer.

“No-one should be waiting three months before booking an appointment”

Sara Hiom

The researchers surveyed 2,371 patients with 15 different cancers about the symptoms that had led to diagnosis.

Almost half of prostate cancer patients and 37% of rectal cancer patients reported a delay of three months or more between first noticing the symptoms to going to see a doctor while only 8% of breast cancer patients waited this long.

“We must do more to make sure the public recognises key symptoms of cancer”

Lindsay Forbes

Embarrassment, worrying about wasting a doctor’s time and not realising their symptoms were serious were among the most common reasons for delay.

“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,” said lead author Dr Lindsay Forbes, co-director of the King’s College London’s Early Presentation Group.

“Although a worrying number of patients across society are waiting too long to go to their doctor, it is those in the most deprived areas that are most likely to delay.”

Lindsay Forbes

Lindsay Forbes

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Reserach UK, which part-funded the study, said: “This research highlights how incredibly important it is that everyone is aware of the wide range of cancer symptoms.

“It’s essential that people report any symptoms promptly to their GP. No-one should be waiting three months before booking an appointment,” she said.

“It’s important that we continue investing in our work with both the NHS and Public Health England on the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns,” she added.


Readers' comments (3)

  • This doesnt surprise me, more often than not you go to your GP 2,3,4 or 5 times and they fob you off, tell you its nothing to worry about and to take some pain killers. So when your symptoms persist you're reluctant to go back and more often than not its too late. so until GP's up there game and get on board nothing will change.

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  • patients complain they are unable to get appointments or when they do they don't get the referrals they need or feel their symptoms are ignored. if they are working or have families the appointment system does not help so it is little wonder with so many obstacles put in their way they are put off and they postpone seeking a consultation with their GP and especially if they do not have pain and believe their symptoms are trivial or fear they will be trivialised by their doctor as is reportedly often the case and too often with tragic consequences - cf Stephen Sutton.

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  • further to my comment above, after the media and public passing so much blame onto nurses, the NHS, GPs, the government and some individuals in it, and now onto the patients themselves, none of this is just or fair and time it stopped the the energy transformed into some positive action and improvements in the services provided.

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