Stiff upper lip and cancer? Can this be the whole story?

I awoke this morning to news that I may have a stiff upper lip.

It got me thinking is this true? Are the UK’s poor cancer survival stats down to a humungous Victorian hangover or do we need to look a bit deeper than this stereotype being suggested by the new report from King’s College London and UCL today?

I’m not an anthropologist, but I would suggest we could do with some serious observations of our macho culture, our importance of not being earnest culture (Guilty M’lud) as well as our too busy culture before we jump to conclusions.

Looking at this from the perspective of bowel cancer (uber embarrassing) and my own experience, I am not exaggerating when I say 100% of all younger patients I have come to know over the last couple of years claim GPs “shrugging off” their symptoms or lazy labelling was the norm. The cost of this is shocking and tragic as too many young families are living with the realisation they may not see their children grow up, or perhaps ever be parents themselves. And we owe them some serious answers.

So yes, how many times do you get knocked back before you start to feel “embarrassed about wasting GPs time?”  I certainly didn’t start out as being embarrassed.  But factor in continued rejection when you talk about your bottom and I challenge anyone not to get embarrassed!  In fact, the first time I heard the ‘poo’ word mentioned it was from my surgeon who threw around ‘poo’ liberally in every sentence without a shred of awkwardness.

But is there also a story around our macho culture and our long working hours causing reluctance to visit our Docs? I would rather chew off my own tongue than be described as a hypochondriac so my colon was practically on its knees before I sheepishly went back again for a 3rd time.  As I said, there are many stones to turn over…

So how can we remedy this?

  1. Greater awareness of symptoms of bowel cancer, and especially its affect on younger patients (2,000 diagnosed each year, and I am willing to bet, we might be diagnosed at a more advanced stage than the norm?)
  2. A touch of ‘Scandinavian’ lip (come on you can say it poo poo poo)
  3. GPs taking us seriously; and help us articulate / prompt us / question us.  In my experience, it was a one way street.  If we are sitting in front of you, chances are it took a herculean effort to get there, so don’t miss the opportunity to talk
  4. Get serious about your symptoms – research and educate yourself
  5. And can someone please do research on how many times a patient visits their GP over say a 12 monthly period before finally been diagnosed.  Bet that would make interesting reading!

2 thoughts on “Stiff upper lip and cancer? Can this be the whole story?

  1. Yes exactly. I would love to see the stats of the gap between the 1st visit to a GP and diagnosis. We know only too well a patient being given antibiotics for a bowel infection then after constant sickness twice being sent home from hospital with “constipation”. Keep up the education of all sides. No doubt the professionals will say that many similar symptoms are never cancer, but if in any doubt. . . . . . . . Xx

  2. so true.. my brother was sent away for months.. had 3 visits one day after another to the GP.. he was 39 and he died 4 months later..

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