Stiff upper lip may be causing high rate of UK cancer deaths
British fear of wasting the doctor's time may be stopping cancer patients getting early treatment
THE BRITISH stiff upper lip may be responsible for high rates of death among British cancer patients who tend to delay a visit to their doctor until it is too late to get effective treatment, new research suggests.
After talking to almost 20,000 people over the age of 50 in the UK and five other "high-income" countries - Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden - the researchers concluded that "cultural inhibitions" may be causing a higher rate of death among Britons who contract the disease.
A "high proportion" of those interviewed in the UK said factors such as "not wanting to waste the doctor's time" and "embarrassment" would prevent them from consulting a doctor with a symptom that might be serious. One in three Britons said they worried about wasting a doctor's time compared to less than one in ten in Sweden, says the study by King's College London, published in the British Journal of Cancer.
There were 157,000 deaths from cancer in the UK in 2010, with more than three-quarters occurring in those aged 65 and over. Cancer survival rates are lower in the UK than in any of the other nations surveyed, even though they all have similarly good access to health facilities.
The Times says the study clearly suggests that a fear of "bothering" doctors and a reluctance to discuss intimate health issues could be a key factor in why "cancer survival rates in the UK are lagging behind much of Europe". Only 30 per cent of people in Britain survive for a year after being diagnosed with the disease, compared with 44 per cent in Sweden," the paper says.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph Harry Mount says he is not surprised the study was carried out among the over-50s, because the stiff upper lip has "almost disappeared" among Britons under the age of 40. Mount defends the stiff upper lip, saying it "strains out the self-obsession in conversation".