South Asians Urged to Check Cancer Symptoms


South Asians urged to get life saving GP checks as data reveals more than 40% unaware of common abdominal and urological cancer symptoms

An NHS campaign backed by South Asian healthcare professionals is encouraging people with potential cancer symptoms to come forward for life saving checks. Despite abdominal and urological cancers making up nearly half of all cancer diagnoses in England, as well as two in five cancer deaths, new data reveals that most South Asians are less likely to recognise cancer symptoms, which could prevent them seeking help.

Cancers in the abdominal area include bowel, oesophageal, stomach, pancreatic, ovarian and uterine cancers, while urological cancers include prostate, kidney, and bladder cancers. Symptoms that could be possible signs of these cancers are persistent diarrhoea, prolonged discomfort in the tummy area or blood in your urine – even just once.

Even when symptoms such as persistent tummy troubles or diarrhoea are recognised, more than half of the South Asians surveyed said they would put off going to see their doctor due to feeling embarrassed. However, loved ones may play a crucial role to change this, as over 50% of South Asians were more likely to talk to their family and friends first if they were concerned about possible cancer symptoms.

“There is clearly a lot of work to be done in South Asian communities to increase awareness of cancer symptoms,” says Dr Anant Sachdev, CRUK GP and TVCA Clinical Lead Prevention & Early Diagnosis, who is backing the campaign. “If you notice your loved ones experiencing these symptoms, please urge them to contact their GP immediately and get checked out right away.”

The data by Censuswide found that awareness of a range of potential cancer symptoms was in each case considerably low among South Asians (42% on average), including:

  • Feeling bloated for three weeks or more (44% unaware)
  • Needing to pee urgently (43% unaware)
  • Diarrhoea for more than three weeks (40% unaware)

In addition, respondents were asked about bladder and bowel cancer specifically

  • Blood in pee or stools as symptoms of bladder and bowel cancers (43% unaware for both)

Most South Asians (81%) however did recognise tummy discomfort as a possible symptom of urological and abdominal cancers.

The ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign comes as research shows many South Asians are conscious of wasting their doctor’s time.

To address this, South Asian healthcare professionals are coming together to back the campaign and to let the community know that the NHS is open and that people can access the health services they need when they need them.

“South Asians tend to put their family first, even above their own health. But going to see your GP when experiencing cancer symptoms is the best way to ensure you can be with your family for as long as possible,” says Dr Jyoti Soodi, GP and Clinical Director.

“Do not just rely on herbal remedies and prayer to treat your symptoms. If you see any unusual changes like unexplained tummy pain or diarrhoea that doesn’t go away for three weeks or more, or blood in your pee even once, go and see your GP immediately. It’s probably nothing serious but it could be a sign of cancer and finding it early makes it more treatable and can save your life.”

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