The idea of having vital cancer symptoms missed whilst on an anxious trip to the doctor is a terrifying prospect for all of us. And sadly, it seems that this is something that happens far too often, according to research from the British Journal of General Practice.
The study by researchers took a look at 4,637 people who had had their cancer diagnosed whilst on a trip to an Accident and Emergency Department, and found that 71% of all of those patients had originally gone to their GP with their worrying symptoms first. The remaining 29% had not previously been to their GP before being diagnosed.
Shockingly, of the 71%, 41% of patients had seen their GP three times or more with the symptoms that were concerning them, while 59% had said they’d been once or twice.
Of the people studied, most tended to be younger and female – and perhaps not thought to be so highly at risk of cancer.
Granted, some of the cancers that were only diagnosed at the A&E stage were harder-to-spot types, such as multiple myeloma and lung cancer – which can often be missdiagnosed as a chest infection.
But the group studied also included people who had been diagnosed with more common cancers, including breast cancer and bowel cancer. The study found that 31% of patients with breast cancer had visited their GP three or more times, while 41% of those with bowel cancer had visited three or more times.
The study also mentioned that people who are diagnosed with cancer at the emergency stage had a far worse prognosis than those who were diagnosed earlier as, the faster they’re diagnosed, the better their chances of successful treatment – meaning the findings are pretty scary.
Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK said, “Campaigns like Be Clear on Cancer have boosted the public’s awareness of cancer signs and symptoms. But this study shows that there are multiple reasons that affect how and when a cancer diagnosis is made.
“We need to continue to increase awareness of cancer signs and symptoms and help break down the barriers preventing people from seeing their GP earlier. GPs need better access to the right tests and referral routes if we want to see this number reduced.”
The new research shows that we should be more persistent with our doctors if we have symptoms that are truly worrying us.