“I didn’t feel ill”: Understanding why people delay seeking help

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Fri, 01 Nov 2013 08:43:00 GMT

On Tuesday 16th October, Professor Annie Topping delivered the first public lecture of the School’s 2013-2014 Public Lecture Series, which was entitled, “I didn’t feel ill”: Understanding why people delay seeking help for symptoms of cancer. The lecture took place in the George Buckley Lecture theatre, within the Research Hub building on the University of Huddersfield Queensgate camp.

Professor Annie Topping is Director for the Centre for Health and Social Care research within the Institute for Research and Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS). She trained as a Registered Nurse at the Royal Free Hospital, London and on qualification worked for a number of years in general surgery before becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London. 

Professor Topping’s first research study explored the patient experience of living with a stoma following cancer treatment and that fuelled her enthusiasm for applied research with impact. Her PhD explored the work of breast care nurses “being there for women” and she has recently completed a project evaluating an innovative supportive care model for women with breast cancer with colleagues at Calderdale & Huddersfield Foundation NHS Trust, Breast Cancer Care and Yorkshire Cancer Network.

The fifty or more members of the public, staff and students were enthralled with the presentation which focused on why people often fail to respond to early symptoms that could indicate they have cancer, resulting in delays in seeking medical attention.

Professor Topping’s presentation began with a short recitation and reference to the poem, Miss Gee (from the poetry collection Another Time), by W. H. Auden’s (1907-1973). This served to set the scene for what was a very interesting, educational and informative lecture.

The lecture included details of some key research findings including the following notable facts:

‘The UK has the highest numbers of barriers to presentation of symptoms and the least awareness of age related risks’ (Cancer Awareness International Comparisons, 2013) and that ‘early diagnosis is a key factor in improving outcomes for cancer patients’ (Cancer Research UK, 2012).

Professor Topping said that “Often people are aware they have cancer but put off seeking help as there are other family members needing their attention” (Topping, 2013). A finding that provided a stark reminder that we all need to take our own health and wellbeing seriously. This includes recognising and acknowledging the signs that all may not be well and taking the necessary measures to deal with the issue when it arises rather than putting it off.

Following the lecture, the audience were invited to ask questions of the speaker on the subject matter and there followed a lively discussion about several points including ‘Do we take for granted that the General Practitioner (GP) is the gatekeeper to recognising the signs of cancer?’ and ‘Are GP’s more likely to dismiss testicular cancer than breast cancer?’

The next public lecture will be delivered by Dr Viv Burr and Professor Helen Colley and is entitled ‘Women's Work: Employment and Elder Care Responsibilities in the 21st Century’. It takes place on Wednesday 20 November 2013 at 6.30pm in the George Buckley Lecture Theatre. To reserve your free place please visit: www.uoh-hhspubliclectures.eventbrite.com

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