Millions of Brits at risk of deadly diseases as they're too embarrassed to check symptoms

MILLIONS of adults are too embarrassed to see a doctor about suffering symptoms of potentially deadly diseases – from bloody urine to excess flatulence.

More than a quarter of self-conscious adults admitted they have skipped seeing a GP as they feared their personal problem was too shameful to share.

Research also showed 12 per cent of men and women have put off making a doctor’s appointment for a shocking two years or more to avoid tackling a health issue that made them cringe.

But nearly half of adults attempted to self-diagnose during lockdown by trawling non-NHS sites and ‘Dr Google’ to get to the bottom of symptoms, the study of 2,255 people revealed.

Almost a third of respondents also told the Check for Change survey, commissioned by Essity, they had tried to get a face-to-face GP appointment but couldn’t due to Covid restrictions.

A spokesperson for the hygiene and health firm said: “Searching for symptoms online seems to have become normalised among UK adults during the coronavirus lockdowns.

“But under no circumstances should anybody rely on a prognosis from social media or ‘Dr Google’.

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"See your real-life doctor or healthcare professional if you’re worried. It’s crucial we overcome the embarrassment and stigma that surrounds our intimate health."

The poll questioned 2,000 people aged 18 to 55-plus from England, Scotland and Wales as well as 255 in the same age range from the north and south of Ireland.

Swathes of those surveyed insisted they would never book a doctor’s appointment about a range of “bathroom-related” health issues, despite many of them being warning signs of cancer and other agonising illnesses.

Incontinence, smelly vaginal discharge and bloody urine or stools – renowned as bowel cancer red flags – were among problems named as most embarrassing to discuss.

Excessive flatulence – which can signify agonising Coeliac disease and irritable or inflamed bowels – would stop 34 per cent of sufferers from going to the GP.

Another 15 per cent said increased gas would make them wait at least two weeks before making a doctor’s appointment to find a solution.

While 10 per cent would also wait more than a fortnight to see a GP if they were hit with changes in vaginal discharge – but 14 per cent wouldn’t get it checked at all.

Bleeding between periods or after sex would prevent 16 per cent from seeing a doctor and more than four in 10 said they had never visited their GP to discuss bladder or bowel issues.

Almost a quarter preferred searching Google for symptoms than consulting a doctor, even though nearly a third claimed they “assumed the worst” about a change in their body.


1) Excessive flatulence – 34 per cent (15 per cent would wait more than two weeks to see GP)

2) Bleeding between periods/after sex – 16 per cent (16 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

3) Vaginal discharge changes – 14 per cent (10 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

4) Changes in stool colour/consistency/smell/shape – 12 per cent (15 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

5) Unusual testicle size difference – eight per cent (9 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

6) Swelling/enlargement of/pain in testicle – seven per cent (6 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

7) Bladder control loss/urinary incontinence – six per cent (18 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

8) Bruising easily & fluid build-up – six per cent (10 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

9) Bowel incontinence – five per cent (10 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

10) Abnormal growths/sores on penis/vagina – three per cent (8 per cent 2+ weeks wait)

Of the 26 per cent of those surveyed who blamed the embarrassment factor for making them delay visiting a doctor, 22 per cent were men and 31 per cent women.

Those aged 18-34 were most guilty of putting off seeing a GP, with 39 per cent of the age group saying they had delayed going to a medic about something they felt would be too difficult to share.

More than two in 10 of those polled admitted they had been diagnosed with a condition that could have been detected earlier if they had visited a doctor when their symptoms started.

Wetting or defecating yourself also topped a list of the most “shameful” things to admit to loved ones or friends, with respondents insisting it would be as difficult as confessing to losing a job or engagement ring.

When asked to name an experience they would most hate to endure, 47 per cent replied discussing health issues linked to their genitals, bowels or an “unusual or foul-smelling discharge”.

The figure was higher than the 44 per cent who said they would be most petrified by the prospect of swimming with sharks and the 38 per cent scared by the thought of enduring an I’m A Celebrity bushtucker trial.


It was also nearly as many as the 51 per cent who admitted they’d most fear going 10 rounds against heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.

The survey did identify some “embarrassing” ailments that were too alarming to ignore.

Discovering a lump or swelling in the breasts, testicles, groin, chest or stomach would send people to the doctor in as little as under a day.

Those who found abnormal growths or sores on the penis or vagina said they would also rush for medical attention – with only four per cent of men and five per cent of women willing to ignore their appearance.

The spokesman for Essity added: “It is perfectly understandable that people with symptoms that they feel embarrassed about would rather not share their concerns with a medical professional, but we have to remember these guys have seen these types of problems a million times before.

"The important thing is that we check for any potentially concerning changes in our bathroom health, and then have the confidence to speak to a healthcare professional about it.”

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