A new study has taken a look at the number of people who attribute cancer symptoms to another less dangerous illness. By attributing the symptoms to a less dangerous illness, cancer diagnosis is delayed. The study, entitled “Attributions of Cancer ‘Alarm’ Symptoms in a Community Sample“, looked at potential cancer symptoms experienced by 1,724 people over the age of 50.
The researchers asked people if they had experienced any of 17 specific symptoms (that may indicate cancer) in the last three months. The questions were similar to the following:
“Have you experienced unexplained weight loss?”
“Do you have unexplained lumps on your skin?”
“Have you experienced extra tiredness or dizziness?”
The researchers found that many people ignored the possibility of cancer despite suffering a number of symptoms that could indicate cancer. From the 1,724 respondents, 53% had experienced a symptom of potential cancer, but only 20 (2%) thought cancer was a possibility. The most potential cancer common symptom was an unexplained lump, which was reported by 7% of respondents.
The paper indicates that many people ignore or are unaware of potential cancer symptoms. Early detection is crucial for many forms of cancer, particularly for older adults with a higher cancer risk.
Whitaker, K., Scott, S., Winstanley, K., Macleod, U., & Wardle, J. (2014). Attributions of Cancer ‘Alarm’ Symptoms in a Community Sample. PLOS ONE, 9(12), e114028. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114028