Online searches result in half of Brits diagnosing themselves with cancer

24 January 2018
  • Over half (57%) of us use the internet to diagnose an illness
  • Cancer searched once every 1.7 seconds in the UK
  • A third (34%) of people self diagnose online because they fear they have cancer
  • Self diagnosing online can increase anxiety and worry
  • Bupa launches Cancer Direct Access – the UK’s most comprehensive self-referral cancer service
Woman thoughtfully looking at a computer screen

Millions of people across the UK are potentially misdiagnosing themselves with cancer. Online data shows that 47% of searches for an illness brings up at least one cancer result*. The ‘Keyboard Doctors’ figures illustrates the extent of online diagnosis as Bupa launches its new self-referral cancer service.

Cancer-related topics are searched once every 1.7 seconds in the UK which totals nearly 1.5 million searches a month. (see below for full individual breakdown).

Pancreatic, skin and bowel are among the cancers most searched on Google, amassing nearly 150,000 searches in the UK each month. All of these have a diverse range of symptoms making it unlikely that a ‘Keyboard Doctor’ will be able to accurately diagnose themselves using information online. In line with this, half of results for constipation advised it could be cancer and a sore throat results in cancer for one in three results**.

Dr Steve Iley, Medical Director, Bupa UK said: “One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime but the good news is that survival rates continue to improve. Early cancer detection can have a significant impact on an individual’s chance of survival and reduces their need for complex and invasive treatment that disrupts their life.

Bupa has recently introduced a new Direct Access service for cancer. This is the UK’s most comprehensive self-referral cancer service – to improve early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Without needing to wait for a GP referral, customers simply call the dedicated oncology team before being sped through to a specialist consultant, if they are experiencing cancer symptoms.

Dr Steve Iley, Bupa UK Medical Director continues: “We know that diagnosis and treatment are often delayed as people struggle to find time to book a GP appointment or worry about wasting the doctor’s time. Our Cancer Direct Access service removes the need for a GP referral so our customers can get medical advice in a way that is easy and convenient for them.

“Cancer Direct Access quickly offers peace of mind that the symptoms either are not cancer, or allows them to quickly access the appropriate medical support and treatment for their diagnosis.”

Bupa’s new Cancer Direct Access service covers stomach, oesophagus, pancreas, skin, lung, oral, laryngeal, testicular, bladder, renal, endometrial, breast and bowel cancer.

For more information on Cancer Direct Access visit www.bupa.co.uk/direct-access.

The 20 most searched for health related topics in the UK

Keyword

Average Monthly Searches

(based on Google Keyword data)

Equates to one search

every x seconds*

Pneumonia

135,000

19

Depression

135,000

19

Anxiety

135,000

19

Crohn's disease

135,000

19

Diabetes

110,000

24

Sciatica

110,000

24

Arthritis

90,500

29

Norovirus

90,500

29

Alzheimer

74,000

35

Dementia

74,000

35

Osteoporosis

60,500

43

Bone cancer

60,500

43

Chest infection

60,500

43

Skin cancer

49,500

52

Prostate cancer

49,500

52

Pancreatic cancer

49,500

52

Asthma

40,500

64

Kidney infection

40,500

64

Stroke

33,100

78

Breast cancer

33,100

78

The top 20 cancer-related searches.

(Theses amount to 656,600 a month – more than any other keyword)

Keyword

Average Monthly Searches

(based on Google Keyword data)

Equates to one search

every x seconds*

Bone cancer

60,500

43

Skin cancer

49,500

52

Prostate cancer

49,500

52

Pancreatic cancer

49,500

52

Bowel cancer symptoms

49,500

52

Ovarian cancer

49,500

52

Cancer

40,500

64

Cervical cancer

40,500

64

Breast cancer

33,100

78

Lung cancer

33,100

78

Throat cancer

27,100

96

Brain tumour

27,100

96

Stomach cancer

22,200

117

Testicular cancer

22,200

117

Bladder cancer

22,200

117

Liver cancer

18,100

143

Mouth cancer

18,100

143

Colon cancer

14,800

175

Sarcoma

14,800

175

Thyroid cancer

14,800

175

*Based on 30 day month = 2,592,000 seconds

Notes to editor

This week Bupa launches a new TV advert to highlight the positive impact of fast access to medical diagnosis, treatment and support, such as Cancer Direct Access.

About the research

Opinium Research on behalf of Bupa independently surveyed 2,000 people online in November 2017. The total sample size was 2,004 UK adults aged 18+ years old. Results are weighted to nationally representative criteria.

Methodology

* and ** 20 of the most common symptoms of illness were searched on Google (November 2017). For each of the 10 results on page one of Google, the page was assessed to see if any of the diagnosis contained cancer.


About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives. 

With no shareholders, our customers are our absolute focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We have 16.5m health insurance customers, provide healthcare for 10.6m people in our clinics and hospitals, and look after around 25,000 aged care residents.

We employ over 80,000 people, principally in Australia, the UK, Spain, Hong Kong, Chile, Brazil, Poland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, India and the USA.

Health insurance is around 70% of our business. In a number of countries we also run clinics, dental centres, hospitals and care homes and villages.
 
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