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Women 'delay seeking cancer help'

30 September 2014 12:55

Many women with symptoms of cervical cancer delay seeking help by months, researchers have found

Many women with symptoms of cervical cancer delay seeking help by months, researchers have found

Experts say more must be done to ensure young women with cervical cancer receive treatment as soon as possible.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London carried out research among 128 women aged under 30 who had just been diagnosed with the condition.

They found that fewer than one in three went to see a doctor after noticing changes to their body, and of these nearly three in 10 (28%) only did so more than three months after the symptoms first emerged.

Women up to the age of 25 were also found to be more likely to delay seeking help than those aged between 25 and 29.

The researchers said one of the main reasons for patient delay could be that women simply do not recognise that abdominal pain and unusual bleeding or discharge can be signs of cervical cancer.

They might also worry about being examined by a male doctor or about wasting time, the experts said - but warned that delays in seeking help is likely to lead to worse outcomes for patients.

Many people who have just been diagnosed with cancer consider a holiday trip to help take their mind off treatment - and medical insurance for cancer patients will give them peace of mind during their journey.

Writing in the British Journal of General Practice, the researchers called for awareness among young women that their symptoms may be a sign of a serious illness and that they should speak to their GP immediately.

They added that their findings support case reports which suggest that women aged 25 or under often have a more advanced stage of the cancer by the time they seek help because they "delay presentation".

Earlier presentation "could improve outcomes" for these women, the experts concluded.

They said women should be assured that they will be able to be examined by a female doctor if they wish, and that they should not have to worry about wasting doctors' time or feeling embarrassed.

Women should also be more clearly informed about the symptoms of cervical cancer and how to spot them.