People are more likely to survive cancer if it is found at an early stage, before it has had a chance to spread to other parts of the body. We know that men and women simply do not recognise many of the symptoms that could be cancer. And, added to this, delays in referring patients to specialists and diagnosing the disease are all too common. While we are gradually making progress there is still a long way to go.
It is well known that people sometimes put off seeing their doctor when something is wrong. Often this is because they do not recognise how serious their symptoms might be; perhaps it is something they have had before, or something they know a friend or family member has had. It could also be because people are not aware of the warning signs of cancer.
People’s attitudes towards cancer also play a role. Although people generally believe in the benefits of early diagnosis and are reasonably optimistic about the chances of surviving cancer, a significant proportion have negative attitudes towards cancer treatment. Many people also believe cancer is down to fate and there is nothing that can be done about it. People might prefer to remain in the dark and let life run its course thinking: ‘What will be, will be’. These negative attitudes towards cancer lead to pessimism about early detection, fear of reporting symptoms to others and being less likely to seek help for them.
“If patients are diagnosed when the cancer is still in its early stages before it has had a chance to spread to other parts of the body it is more likely that treatment will be successful.”