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Cancer false alarms could discourage future symptom checking

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Cancer false alarms Cancer false alarms could lead to dismissing of future symptoms

Having a cancer false alarm could put people off checking out cancer symptoms they develop in the future, Cancer Research UK has found.

Researchers from the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London reviewed19 UK and International studies. They found that patients may delay seeking help for new or recurrent symptoms if they were over-reassured or felt under-supported by the healthcare system following a previous false alarm.

If patients felt unsupported and believed that they had been treated dismissively, they became concerned that they may be perceived as a hypochondriac if they sought further help in the future.

Several studies also reported that insufficient explanation or advice at the time of the false alarm, on possible causes of the symptoms or the next steps, left patients feeling that doctors couldn't help them.

The review also indicated that over-reassurance could lead patients to believe that future symptoms are not of concern.

Lead author, Dr Cristina Renzi, Cancer Research UK health expert at UCL, said: 'Patients who go to their GP with symptoms are obviously relieved to find out that they don't have cancer. But as our review showed, it's important that they don't have a false sense of security and understand they should still seek help if they notice new or recurrent symptoms . Having an all-clear now does not mean that you won't develop cancer in the future.'

'It also appears to be important that patients are given the right support and information to patients who have a cancer false alarm, they will still feel encouraged to get any symptoms checked out quickly.'

In the case of breast symptoms, a benign biopsy result appeared to give some women a false sense of security for many years, with some also reporting being less breast aware even though there is no guarantee they wouldn't develop breast cancer in the future.

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