Cancer fight: Your stories

Lung cancer cells

A "stiff upper lip" culture may explain why the UK's cancer survival rate is lower than other developed nations, new research suggests.

A survey of nearly 20,000 adults across a number of countries found people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were more reluctant to seek help than people in other counties.

You have been sharing your stories of how you felt about approaching your doctor with health concerns and being diagnosed with cancer.

Michelle, 43, Surrey

I found a lump in my breast a week ago and at first didn't even want to tell my husband as I didn't want him examining me.

He told a close friend of mine who nearly died from breast cancer as the doctor told her three times there was no lump. She forced me to ring the doctor.

When I went in, I started by telling the doctor about something completely different then blurted it out.

Even when the doctor found the lump, I was still apologising for being neurotic and wasting his time as it probably isn't anything serious.

I haven't even had the mammogram to establish this yet but still felt like I was wasting his time. I am now waiting for my referral to come through.

I think it goes back to my childhood. I was brought up not to talk about religion, health or politics.

Christine, 76, London

I know I fell into this category. Initially, I failed to visit my GP due to family responsibilities. I had also had a negative mammogram in the past.

Subsequently, I had vague abdominal symptoms, I didn't get them checked out as I did not want to be thought of as a hypochondriac. However, when I did get the pains checked I was diagnosed with cancer.

I had metastases in my peritoneum and my bones. The latter does not give symptoms until quite advanced.

At the moment I am in five years of intensive follow-up, but it seems that secondaries can appear after that period and beyond. I have been told that enlarged glands is what I should look out for. I am being treated well and feel energetic now, in spite of being elderly.

Charles, Devon

I have cancer, but found it very difficult to visit my doctor. I found it hard to go to my GP mainly because I did not want to be seen as some sort of wimp.

For a start we live in a culture that thinks that anyone on benefit is a scrounger.

I felt very embarrassed to tell my employer that I would be off work for some months to undergo chemotherapy, so until society shifts its position about being macho and not fiddling the system things I think will stay as they are.

The media have been very irresponsible in this respect so they also have to question their behaviour.

Jenny, 50, Pontypool

I was told by my consultant that I did not have anything wrong with me. I was told I did not have breast cancer and for two years I kept going back seeking more help in the end I was made to feel that I was a hypochondriac.

I suppose I then had to adopt a stiff upper lip attitude because I had to get on with it, I had no choice, I was not being taken seriously. In the end my husband forced me to go to a doctor the following year because I was in so much pain.

I was reluctant to see the doctor because I was previously told nothing was wrong with me when I knew something was. You know your own body. So three years on I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

After the initial shock I did not do the stiff upper lip thing at all, I decided that this was war and the battle commenced, so in 2010 I had chemotherapy, then a mastectomy then radiotherapy. In 2012 I had reconstructive surgery.

I have been to hell and back during the past three years with no help from the system and I am proud to say I have fought all the way and I know I have inspired other ladies too and I was always willing to talk about my experiences. I am now doing well.

More on this story