Seeing the doctor - Cancer Information Nurses video transcript

Julia Frater: If you’ve noticed something that’s unusual for you that wasn’t there before and that you found out of the ordinary, or any of the symptoms that we know can sometimes be linked to cancer, the best thing to do is to see your GP and to get yourself checked out.

Martin Ledwick: In many cases it’ll turn out not to be cancer at all because often the symptoms of cancer can be symptoms of other illnesses as well but it doesn’t do any harm at all to get them checked out to be on the safe side.

Won’t I be wasting the doctor’s time?

Julia Frater: Some people worry that they’re going to be wasting their doctor’s time if they go to see them with a list of symptoms but you’re never really wasting your doctor’s time because unless you go and see your doctor, you don’t know if there’s anything serious the matter and getting some peace of mind isn’t wasting time.

I’m feeling embarrassed

Martin Ledwick: Sometimes people can feel embarrassed about a particular symptom they’ve got, particularly if it’s of a very personal nature. But it’s important to remember that healthcare professionals like doctors and like all the nurses on my team, we’ve seen it all and we’ve heard it all. What we’re really interested in is trying to find out if there’s anything the matter with you so, you know, don’t be embarrassed about telling us anything at all about what’s happening to you. And it may be that it’s some of the more personal things that actually are the most important things to let the doctor know about.

Julia Frater: Doctors and nurses understand it’s embarrassing and, you know, they’ll give you every respect and, you know, try and maintain your privacy, and really I guess it’s just something we’ve got to try and overcome because in a way there’s no way round it, you know, we can get problems in those parts of our bodies and we can get cancers there too. You can ask for the same sex GP to see you, and when you ask for an appointment with the receptionist, you don’t have to tell the receptionist what it is that you want to see the doctor about.

I’m worried about what the doctor might find

Julia Frater: When I talk to people, they do seem to be very frightened sometimes that they may have something seriously the matter when they’ve noticed a symptom. But there are lots of other, non-serious conditions that can cause similar symptoms to cancer. My experience of being worried about things myself is that, when you put things off, it doesn’t make you any less worried and avoiding anything just means that you actually usually get more worried. At the end of the day, however frightening, potentially frightening something is, doing nothing about it isn’t really going to help, so the best thing to do is to get yourself checked out. Even though that symptom could, potentially, be linked to cancer it may not be, and the only way to get the peace of mind is to go to your GP.

I’m too busy to see the doctor

Julia Frater: We all lead such busy lives, and we have so many commitments that we’re trying to fulfil all the time, so many balls we’re trying to juggle, that it’s easy to let health drop and it’s the ball that we should never let drop actually because if we’re not healthy, we’re not going to be able to do anything else. So if you’ve got a concern about your health, that should be your priority, that’s your biggest ball, that’s the one to go and get sorted out.

Julia Frater: If you’ve got a symptom and you know it may be linked to cancer or you’ve got something that you’ve noticed about your body that’s out of the ordinary, unusual for you, don’t hope for the best, don’t avoid it, get it sorted out.

How can I prepare for seeing the doctor?

Martin Ledwick: It’s useful to do some preparation before you go and see the doctor if you’ve got a health problem of any kind. One of the things you can do is perhaps make a short, written diary about what the signs and symptoms are that you’re concerned about. Often when you go into the doctor it’s easy for things to slip your mind and for you to forget what you’d gone in there to talk about ‘cos it can sometimes feel a bit pressured, so it’s useful to have something in writing and if you’ve got a clear idea about what the pattern of the symptoms are that you’ve had, it’ll be really helpful for your doctor in deciding whether or not they might be something to be concerned about.

Julia Frater: It’s a good idea to be prepared, thinking things through, thinking what’s been happening, remembering all the symptoms you’ve had, how often you’ve had them. And remembering to mention everything that’s been going on, not just the symptoms that you think are important. It’s just worth always getting everything in, making the best use of your time and saying everything, getting all your cards on the table while you’re there.

What might happen at the doctor’s?

Martin Ledwick: Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to expect when you go and see the doctor if you’ve got some symptoms that you’re concerned about. What would usually happen is the doctor will ask you some more questions and try to find out exactly what’s been going on. In some situations they might also do a physical examination to see whether they can tell whether there’s anything significant happening to you. Sometimes they might want to refer you on to some further tests or even perhaps make an appointment for you to see a specialist. But in other situations it might be absolutely fine for them to say to you, ‘well, if this problem that you’ve got doesn’t clear up in a little while come back to me’, because occasionally it can be quite reasonable that the symptoms you’ve got are caused by something else.

What if the symptoms don’t go away or get worse?

Martin Ledwick: If the symptoms or the things that you’re concerned about haven’t gone away, or have got worse in any way then it is important to go back and see your doctor again, even if the last time you saw them they felt that they weren’t significant. If the problems haven’t got better, then it may be something to be concerned about and it’s important to go back and see them again.

Julia Frater: The idea of knowing about the symptoms linked to cancer, and also knowing your body so that you can spot anything out of the ordinary and go to see the doctor if you do, is to try and pick up cancers when they’re at an early stage and they’re more likely to be successfully treated. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a good way of looking after yourself. So if there’s something you need to act on, get going.

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