A GP from South Tyneside is warning patients to avoid a British ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to illness.
New research has revealed many Britons are embarrassed about visiting doctors and this may explain why the UK has a far lower cancer survival rate than other developed nations – despite the access to skilled medical staff and treatments.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, chairman of the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, which represents the borough’s 29 GP practices, is urging people to get checked out – no matter how embarrassing their problem.
Dr Walmsley, based at Marsden Road Health Centre in Horsley Hill, South Shields, said: “I urge anyone who has symptoms that are worrying them to contact their GP.
“There is absolutely no need to be embarrassed about talking to your doctor. They diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions every day.”
The Department of Health surveyed almost 40,000 people aged over 50 from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Britain. They found there was little difference in the awareness of cancer symptoms, yet the British were less likely to act.
One in three in Britain said they were worried about wasting a GP’s time compared with fewer than one in 10 in Sweden.
One in six Britons were embarrassed about going to a doctor with a symptom that might be serious compared with one in 17 in Denmark.
Dr Walmsley said: “In most cases it will be nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable. It’s important people don’t put off making an appointment.”
According to estimates, more than 5,000 cancer patients could be saved in England each year if it matched the best European survival rates.
Lead researcher Dr Lindsay Forbes added: “We don’t know why British people feel like that. It may be that we are more stoic and have a war-time mentality.”