Going to your GP

Cancer is rare in young people. Therefore when a GP sees a young person with certain signs or symptoms they tend to think of the more common possible causes of these signs and symptoms first e.g. when a girl with a swollen stomach presents to her GP, the GP is more likely to start thinking 'pregnancy?' than 'ovarian cancer?'. Other young people said that that their doctor was baffled by their symptoms, and dismissed them as 'growing pains', or put them down to things like 'exam stress'.

Young people were often not tested until after they had visited their doctor several times or when they or their parents started to think there must be something more seriously wrong. Parents sometimes went with the young person to the doctors to make sure their symptoms were taken seriously.

People who do not have pain or discomfort may not be worried about their symptoms and may delay visiting their doctor for some time.

If a GP suspects cancer they will arrange for tests or send the young person to see a hospital specialist (consultant). Looking back, some teenagers thought their GP was more concerned than they let on. Some GPs were very quick off the mark, while others took longer to refer or made non-urgent hospital referrals. Teenagers and their parents sometimes still felt angry towards their GPs for not taking their symptoms seriously.

Sometimes it was a nurse, physiotherapist or junior doctor who first picked up the symptoms. One young woman said that in comparison to her friends she considers herself lucky because she did not have to explain symptoms to doctors. Her ganglioneuroblastoma was discovered by 'chance' following recurrent back pain problems after a car accident. 

Last reviewed December 2017.

Last updated November 2014.


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