Vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain and bleeding from the bottom seen as 'most shameful symptoms'
Potential cancer symptoms are being ignored by 25% of UK employees - the equivalent of 4.7m people - because they are too embarrassed to seek advice from a doctor, research from Bupa has found.
The research, which surveyed 1,245 workers, estimated that nearly half a million (480,000) people have avoided doing to the doctor altogether, risking a serious condition going undiagnosed.
Vaginal bleeding is viewed as the most awkward symptom to discuss by UK adults, followed by pain in the groin, blood or pain urinating and bleeding from the bottom, the survey found.
On average, the ‘embarrassment factor' is causing people to delay seeing a doctor for longer than two months.
People suffering from changes in bladder or bowel habits tend to put off getting medical assistance for longer than other symptoms - an average of almost 10 weeks - while those experiencing irregular vaginal bleeding would wait for 66 days and those with a testicle lump would wait 62 days.
More than half (57%) said they would not know how to start a conversation about a symptom, while two in five (40%) employees would prefer to speak to someone over the phone and 35% said they had looked online rather than visit a doctor. One in four said they had been so embarrassed that they only sought help after being encouraged to do so by their partner.
"When you notice something's not right with your body it can be daunting, whatever the symptoms. It's important to remember that the role of medical professionals is to help you understand your body, providing you with peace of mind or signposting you to the most appropriate treatment and support for your condition," said Julia Ross, head of Cancer Care at Bupa UK.
"Fast access to treatment can help aid recovery and the long-term management of an illness. I'd always encourage people not to delay seeing a health professional if they are experiencing worrying symptoms even if you are concerned about embarrassment."
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