Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dying of Embarassment

Cancer survival rates would be much better if we were less embarrassed about going to see the doctor, or were afraid of wasting doctors time, according to a new report.  I can vouch for this; it's taken the repeated encouragement of my other half to get me to the doctor on a couple of occasions in recent years when, left to my own devices, I'd have tried to soldier on and hope things went away. Partly because I didn't want to bother the doctor, and partly because there were certain bits of my anatomy I didn't want exposed to the fresh air of a doctors waiting room.

"As a nation we are much more likely to say we are embarrassed about going to the doctor or we are worried that we will take up a doctor's time.
"We don't know why British people feel like that. It may be that we are more stoic and have a war-time mentality.
"We know that older people in particular can get a symptom and then wait for weeks or months before going to see their doctor."

I must admit, the fear of wasting doctors time is sometimes reinforced by booking in systems, which sometimes seem designed to keep people away from seeing the doctor unless it's absolutely necessary. I appreciate the need to make sure doctors time is well spent, but there is still quite an air of mystique and remoteness about UK doctors. My experience in hospital is often (not always) that the specialists whizz in and out on the basis of spending the absolute minimum of time with a patient, and it's quite hard work sometimes to get information out of people about your condition. I don't know how highly social and emotional skills are ranked in doctors recruitment, but wonder whether a more overtly approachable medical  culture would help.

Despite that, I'm sure a some of it is down to the peculiar British culture of being obsessed by sex, whilst at the same time very squeamish about our own bodies, especially our (insert embarassment-saving euphemism here). And lets face it, a prostate check at a GP surgery isn't a pleasant experience for either party.

More of the report findings here.

1 comment:

  1. Another David1/2/13 11:25 a.m.

    A GP friend of mine used to take on newly qualified doctors for training. He tells the tale of asking one new trainee to examine the patient, then come back and tell him what he had found. The new doctor came back and reported “it’s varicose veins”. My friend asked him to go back and take another look. He said “I’m sure it’s varicose veins”. “No”, said the more experienced GP, “She is Mrs Smith and she has varicose veins”.