Some cultural traits may be hurtful in the long run. It seems prudish-ness of the British life – the “Stiff Upper Lip” – is one such trait that is proving harmful to the health.
A new study published in the British Journal of Cancer shows factors such as embarrassment and not wanting to waste a doctor’s time may hold British people back from seeking early medical advice for symptoms of cancer.
The study is part of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP), which has previously found that for lung, breast, bowel, and ovarian cancers diagnosed between 1995 and 2007, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and Norway had the highest rates of survival, and Denmark and UK the lowest, despite all the countries having similarly good cancer registration systems and good access to health care.
For example, in the UK, the one year survival rate of those diagnosed with lung cancer between 2005 and 2007 was 30 percent, compared to 44 percent in Sweden. Researchers wanted to find out whether survival rates for a country might be influenced by the population’s cancer awareness and beliefs.
The study also found that awareness of the risk of cancer being higher in older people varied significantly across countries, being lowest in Canada (13 percent) and the UK (14 percent) and highest in Sweden (38 percent).
“The UK stood out in this study,” says Lindsay Forbes, from the Promoting Early Presentation Group at King’s College London and joint lead author of the study. “A high proportion of people said that not wanting to waste the doctor’s time and embarrassment might stop them going to the doctor with a symptom that might be serious.
“The traditional British ‘stiff upper lip’ could be preventing people from seeing their doctor. We need to support people to make the right decisions about their health and increase awareness of the age-related risk.”
How people make decisions about their doctor’s visit seem to be playing a major role in the treatment of the disease itself!