More than a third (39 per cent) of people in Britain say difficulty making an appointment might put them off going to the doctor about a symptom they think could be serious according to a new study* from Cancer Research UK.

This was the reason the largest number of people gave for putting off going to the doctor and was mentioned more often than worry about what the doctor might find (32 per cent) and wasting the doctor’s time (24 per cent).

Following on from another international survey published last month which found people in the UK were more likely to be embarrassed or worried about what the doctor might find than people in other countries, this British study suggests perceived difficulty in making an appointment is the biggest barrier confronting people considering visits to their surgery.

To gauge the public’s knowledge of cancer, every two years Cancer Research UK asks people questions about the signs and symptoms of cancer and what might put them off going to the doctor.

Since 2010 initiatives including the Department of Health’s Be Clear on Cancer and Cancer Research UK’s Tesco Charity of the Year partnership have worked to raise awareness of the importance of early cancer detection and reduce fear and fatalism.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK director of early diagnosis said: “The fact people now appear to be less scared, embarrassed or worried about what the doctor might find and more knowledgeable about cancer symptoms suggests real progress in our fight to increase early diagnosis of cancer and prevent thousands of avoidable deaths.

“We hope projects like Be Clear on Cancer and Cancer Research UK’s Charity of the Year partnership with Tesco, which have aimed to spread awareness about the vital importance of early diagnosis, may be playing a crucial role in this.

“Although these results suggest a shift away from emotional barriers to visiting the GP, it’s concerning to think that something as simple as making a doctor’s appointment could be putting people off seeking help for a serious symptom.

“Further work is now needed to find out what lies at the heart of this issue for example whether people dislike not being able to see the same GP, appointment times do not suit or if the booking system is too complicated.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or the out of hours’ duty press officer on 07050 264059.


*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from The Cancer Awareness Measure 2012 (CAM). CAM is a survey designed to assess levels of public awareness and knowledge of the signs and symptoms of cancer and to discover what barriers prevent people from visiting their doctor with potential cancer symptoms. Cancer Research UK developed the CAM with a group of researchers from University College London, King’s College London and the University of Oxford. It was carried out among a population representative sample of 2001 adults over the age of 18 in Great Britain by the Office for National Statistics in October and November 2012.

Sometimes people put off going to see the doctor, even when they have a symptom that they think might be serious.  Could you say if any of these might put you off going to the doctor?20102012
It would be difficult to make an appointment with my doctor36.5%39.0%
I would be worried about what the doctor might find37.1%32.1%
I would be worried about wasting the doctor’s time26.1%24.2%
I would be too busy to make time to go to the doctor21.1%21.9%
I would be too scared23.2%19.7%
I would be too embarrassed17.4%15.4%
I have too many other things to worry about17.5%14.6%
My doctor would be difficult to talk to13.9%13.3%
I wouldn’t feel confident talking about my symptom with the doctor9.6%11.4%
It would be difficult for me to arrange transport to the doctor’s surgery5.1%3.6%


The Be Clear on Cancer awareness campaigns are funded by the Department of Health. The Department commissions independent evaluation to assess the impact of the campaigns on public awareness of cancer, attitudes to cancer and other items.

Cancer Research UK is Tesco’s Charity of the Year  and together we hope to raise £10million to fund 32 early diagnosis and detection research projects across the UK. This will help more people survive cancer and keep more families together.


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