Economy 12 February 2013 People are dying of cancer because they are worried about inconveniencing their doctor There's low-hanging fruit in medicine yet. Print HTML A British Journal of Cancer paper published last week (pdf) reveals how many low-hanging fruit there are to fighting cancer in Britain today. For all that the public focus remains on cancer treatment as a field of cutting-edge medical science, much of the most important work is done in finding and treating cancer early. And that aim is far more easily achieved if people actually help get there. A sample of over 4,000 people over 50 from England, Northern Ireland and Wales looked at barriers to symptomatic presentation. It asked why people might be put off going to a doctor even if they had a symptom which they knew might be serious. People in the UK were the most likely of the nations surveyed to not go to the doctor through embarrassment, fear of wasting the doctor's time, and worry about what the doctor might find. Of those, the most common reason was worry about wasting the doctors time: a full 34 per cent of those surveyed put off an appointment over that fear. Putting all the reasons together, the UK had the highest mean barriers to "symptomatic presentation" — going to the doctor. The authors conclude: In the UK, interventions to promote early presentation might usefully focus on addressing awareness of the age-related risk and increasing the public’s confidence to approach the GP with possible cancer symptoms. It's easy to forget how simple some of the most important things in medicine are, but people are dying of cancer in Britain because they are worried about inconveniencing the doctor. That probably shouldn't continue to happen. › There's a weirdly upbeat mood in the city Photograph: Getty Images Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter. From only £1 per week Subscribe More Related articles The twelve tricks in George Osborne's spending review Responding to George Osborne's tax credit U-turn should have been Labour's victory lap Why have men become so lonely – and how does it affect their health?