London: Perhaps driven by fear, people often prefer to dismissing potential warning signs of cancer, thereby putting their lives at risk, says a study.
In the study involving 1,700 people, more than half (53 percent) said they had experienced at least one red-flag cancer 'alarm' symptom during the previous three months, but only two percent of them thought that cancer was a possible cause, the findings showed.
The results showed that people rarely attributed potential signs of cancer to the disease, putting them down to other reasons instead, such as age, infection, arthritis, piles and cysts.
"Most people with potential warning symptoms don't have cancer, but some will and others may have other diseases that would benefit from early attention,” said lead study author Katriina Whitaker, senior research fellow at University College London.
“That is why it is important that these symptoms are checked out, especially if they do not go away. But people could delay seeing a doctor if they do not acknowledge cancer as a possible cause,” Whitaker added.
The researchers found that even the more obvious warning symptoms, such as unexplained lumps or changes to the appearance of a mole, were rarely attributed to cancer, although they are often well recognised in surveys that assess the public's knowledge of the disease.
"Most cancers are picked up through people going to their doctors about symptoms. This study indicates that opportunities for early diagnosis are being missed,” said Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK.
The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.