How celebrities are reducing the embarrassment factor for millions with cancer symptoms

Published by Julia Ross
Head of Cancer, Cardiac and Radiology at Bupa UK Insurance

26 April 2019 . United Kingdom

We often see the actions of celebrities changing public perceptions or shifting ways of thinking. So, it’s been encouraging to see high-profile celebrities sharing their cancer diagnosis and journey, such as Bill Turnbull, Stephen Fry and Jeremy Bowen.
Woman reading a magazine

Recent Bupa research found that one in five adults have delayed seeking medical help for a potential cancer symptom due to the ‘embarrassment factor’. Over half of Brits says the reason for the delay is they wouldn’t know how to start the conversation about their symptom, and one in three would feel more comfortable talking about embarrassing health concerns over the phone rather than in person.

However, as more and more celebrities talk openly about their personal experiences with cancer, the stigma seems to be fading. NHS England this week credited high-profile celebrities raising more awareness than ever before leading to a significant increase in the number of people checking for cancer symptoms.

The figures reveal a record number of people were checked and treated for cancer last year. More than two million checks were carried out on people who feared they might have cancer last year, an increase of almost a quarter of a million on the 1.9 million people who were seen in 2017. And more than 308,000 received a first treatment in 2018, almost 13,000 more than in 2017 and the first time the number has topped 300,000.

We have also seen a rise in calls to Bupa UK’s Cancer Direct Access line, which have increased by 38% over the last year. This shows that people with symptoms they suspect are cancer find this route into care convenient and accessible.

Research from Cancer Research UK shows that early diagnosis and treatment of cancer significantly improves health outcomes for patients - if diagnosed early (stage one), more than 95%of people with bowel cancer will survive for five years or more after they're diagnosed; this survival rate drops to seven percent if it’s not diagnosed until stage four.

With Bupa UK’s telephone-based cancer self-referral service, Cancer Direct Access, patients can call the dedicated oncology team before being sped through to a specialist consultant, if they are experiencing cancer symptoms, without the need for a GP referral. We hope this and continued awareness raising will continue to encourage people to get symptoms checked immediately, reduce the ‘embarrassment factor’ and ensure more people receive diagnosis and treatment earlier, improving their health outcomes – this all contributes to Bupa’s purpose of longer, healthier, happier lives.

Julia Ross

Head of Cancer, Cardiac and Radiology at Bupa UK Insurance

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