UK women of South Asian backgrounds 'are hiding cancer'

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British women of South Asian descent who contract cancer are keeping it a secret because of an apparent stigma about the disease.

Experts fear a number of patients are choosing to hide the illness and suffer alone instead of talking openly with friends and family about it.

Some have only sought help at late stages, meaning doctors were unable to do anything about otherwise preventable deaths.

Pravina Patel grew up in a strict Indian community and discovered a lump on her breast when she was 36.

She told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she worried people would judge her so hid the condition.

She said: “I just thought, if people hear the fact I’ve got cancer, they’re going to think it’s a death sentence, that maybe I lead a bad life, therefore God has punished me.”

Another woman only visited the doctor after her breast became rotten and later died because the deadly cancer had already spread.

NHS researcher Pooja Saini said that for some the stigma included worrying that no one would want to marry their children.

“Some women went to the extent of not even having treatment because, if they went, people would know as they’d lose their hair,” she told the BBC.

Data on the extent of the problem is sparse. But experts have urged health professionals to record more information regarding the ethnicity of women going for screening tests, in a bid to improve care and target awareness campaigns.

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