In this week's Scrubbing Up, leading cancer expert Professor Nick Lemoine says the battle against cancer will never be won unless patients are more proactive.
Here are some of the comments you have been sending in response to the article.
I was diagnosed with the pre-stage of cervical cancer and had to experience the system in this country which is a mess. It took the system and the doctors six months from the time I had my smear test to the time I had the operation. I am from another European country, but I will definitely be leaving this country if something serious like cancer should happen to me - I don't trust any cancer prevention system here.
This is about a cultural change in the way healthcare is perceived - the government are shifting away from a paternalistic approach to more of a "patient-in-partnership" approach - this empowers people by demonstrating that they are not passive participants of healthcare, but can actively be involved in monitoring and maintaining their health, as well as seeking support when needed - such as health screening.
It is important to increase people's self-efficacy and their belief that they can make the correct decisions regarding their health and their healthcare. A big part of this is improving health literacy via information provision and health education.
While I agree that more should be done to encourage people to get help sooner, what concerns me is what happens when you do. We need better education about the rarer forms of cancer such as kidney cancer, not in patients but in GPs and consultants. I was symptomatic, night sweats, anaemia, etc for 18 months before I was diagnosed and treated, and I went to my GP the day after my first symptoms showed.
Maria Doherty, Hamilton
The focus for all communities should continue to be on promoting cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to access world-class treatment, rather than a death sentence about which nothing can be done. The fear of bad news and even criticism from health care staff holds many people back from presenting symptoms and even attending regular screenings. The situation is not helped by individuals such as my mother's practice nurse who, on hearing she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, told her she obviously had "the gene". My mother spent many guilty sleepless nights before a consultant was able to dispel her fears and reassure her there is no concern about cancer for relatives. This kind of attitude is not very common but does nothing but hurt attempts to encourage the public to view cancer diagnosis and treatment in a positive light.
There is an unavoidable tension between access and limited resources. In the NHS at present the GP system rations access based on persistence at getting appointments and demanding referral. The greatest increase in uptake would be produced by allowing patients to refer themselves directly to specialist centres - but I am not sure Professor Lemoine would welcome that.
One factor that my colleagues and I often discuss are the barriers put in place to stop people making GP appointments. Rather than being friendly and helpful staff often make it extremely difficult to make appointments, especially at a convenient time for working people. In some surgeries there almost seems to be an assumption that you are trying to waste the doctor's time. I think this puts people off visiting the GP with nebulous symptoms which may indicate cancer but may equally be relatively unimportant. Also, a free NHS is a great idea but because people are not paying directly they can feel they are being a drain on resources, and some people do not want to cause unnecessary work for the overburdened health system.
G Royston, London
Living in Bermondsey it can be a nightmare to get a doctors appointment. You call on one day to be told to call back the next day as there are appointments then but they can't give them to you until that morning - if you are quick enough. Unless easier access to doctors is given, patients will simply put things off until the symptoms are so bad they finally have to jump through hoops to get an appointment, but by then it could be too late.
Teresa Chapman, London
Going to the doctors in time does not always work. My husband went to his doctor and was referred to the local hospital. He had cancer but was diagnosed with and treated for eight months for diverticulitis before the correct diagnosis was made, discovered by accident. The tumour was on the outside of his bowel, not the inside. Earlier and more thorough investigations, such as a CT scan, for his increasing pain might have saved him from an early death.
Susan Lowery, Ipswich
I have just come through two cancer biopsies (thankfully negative). I think (like sexual health) that if you are given counselling pre-test and pre-diagnosis - this helps dispel some of the fears. Hospital consultants are getting better at caring about the human impact of their words instead of just being interested in cancer as a practical challenge for them.
David Gregory, Reading
Having a competent GP that takes you seriously would be a start. Nearly two years lapsed between the, "There's nothing there" and the consultants unguarded comment of "How could you let it get that large?!"
Adrian Barnard, Didcot
This is all well and good but when my mother went to her GP early last year precious weeks were lost due to the indifference that was displayed in getting her scanned and tested for what eventually turned out to be aggressive oesophageal cancer. The result being a very tough regime of chemo and radiotherapy which has all but destroyed my mother who is was given the all clear, but it seems now that it has returned stronger than ever. Yes the patients should be more proactive, but so should the doctors. With that said the cancer specialist and his team have been excellent, direct and honest. We hope and pray that we can still defeat this.
Sean Lewis, Crewkerne