Don’t let the fear of cancer deter you from seeking help to treat symptoms is the focus of a new NHS campaign.
While having the disease is bad enough, research has shown that fear of cancer itself is having a significant impact and could be preventing people from getting the vital early checks that could save their lives.
The new campaign from NHS England and NHS Improvement is taking a different approach this time, focusing on tackling the fear of cancer within the population rather than specific symptoms. The key message is that if you think something is wrong it is always better to get checked out to put your mind at rest, or to get early treatment that increases your chances of a good outcome.
A powerful film accompanies the campaign, depicting cancer survivors and those who have been referred for testing, and their personal experiences of how the NHS helped them in their journey and focuses the importance of visiting your GP and getting a diagnosis as early as possible.
Supporting the campaign is new research which shows that nearly six in 10 people (56%) say a cancer diagnosis is their biggest health fear, above other illnesses including heart disease and Covid-19.
“nearly six in 10 people (56%) say a cancer diagnosis is their biggest health fear”
Almost two thirds (63%) of those surveyed said dying was their biggest cancer fear, with more than one in three (37%) worried about being a burden on family and friends and over another third (36%) worried about the impact of chemotherapy or other treatments.
While the majority of people knew catching cancer earlier makes it more treatable, over two fifths (42%) said they would ignore symptoms, wait to see if anything changed, look for answers online or speak to family and friends before seeing their GP.
Johnny Nelson, ex-professional boxer, who features in the film after going through a prostate cancer scare, said: “I had been thinking about visiting my GP for some time as cancer runs in my family and I am aware that I am at greater risk as a Black man, but I just kept putting it off – I was apprehensive, uncomfortable and potentially a bit embarrassed. Once I did reach out to my GP and go through the tests, I knew it was the best thing I could have done. After the check-up, my mind was at ease and thankfully I was given the all-clear.”
Also keen to raise awareness of early checks is 64-year old Phil Kissi from London who is a prostate cancer survivor. Phil said: “In 2006, I was watching a TV programme that said Black men had a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. Although I didn’t have any symptoms, I had a feeling that something wasn’t right.
“My diagnosis changed my perspective on life, and I re-evaluated what was important to me. After my surgery, I decided to go into athletic training and help young people who might not have had the chance to fulfil their potential otherwise.
“I had a feeling that something wasn’t right.”
“If you’re worried about cancer, contact your GP practice. It’s probably nothing serious but even if it is, getting your diagnosis earlier can give you more treatment options and ultimately, a better chance of success.”
NHS bosses and cancer charities are urging people not to delay “lifesaving” checks, particularly as not all the symptoms of cancer are easy to spot.
In particular, contact your GP practice if you experience any of the below symptoms:
- Tummy trouble, such as discomfort or diarrhoea for three weeks or more, or
- Blood in your urine – even just once;
- Unexpected or unexplained bleeding;
- Unexplained pain that lasts three weeks or more;
- An unexplained lump; or
- A cough for three weeks or more (that isn’t COVID-19).
Other signs and symptoms to look out for are listed below. Promptly contact your GP practice if you experience these for three weeks or more:
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Feeling tired and unwell and not sure why
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Unusual, pale or greasy poo.
Don’t let the fear of getting cancer stop you from getting the best chance of survival through life-saving early diagnosis.
Dr Seun Bakare, who is supporting the campaign, said: “The early symptoms of cancer are not always easy to spot. If you are worried that something in your body doesn’t feel right. I cannot urge you enough to just contact your GP and book an appointment – the NHS wants to see you. It is probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable.”