Facing cancer alone sounds daunting and lonely, yet a considerable number of cancer patients are choosing to go it alone and keep their close friends and family in the dark.
Hiding their diagnosis and treatment is important to some people to help protect their loved ones, according to new research from Bupa.
There are two million people in the UK living with or beyond cancer. One in six people - approximately 360,000 UK adults - know someone who has decided not to tell a close family member or friend about their diagnosis at some point.
WOMEN MORE SECRETIVE THAN MEN
While women are stereotypically known to be good communicators, the study has found that women are most likely to keep a diagnosis to themselves. A fifth of female cancer patients considered not telling their parents and siblings, or extended family such as grandparents, compared to 15% of men.
There was also a marked difference between telling a spouse or partner about diagnosis, with 1 in 25 women saying they'd consider not telling, compared to one in 100 men.
The biggest reason for women keeping their diagnosis a secret - they want life to carry on as normal. But one in five couldn't face having the conversation with friends and they wanted to protect them.
Jayne Molyneux, Cancer Healthcare Manager at Bupa comments: "Every patient reacts differently to their cancer diagnosis. We are finding more patients choosing to keep their diagnosis to themselves and dealing with treatment on their own, or until they've come to terms with it."
WHY PEOPLE KEEP QUIET
People who receive a cancer diagnosis have to make the difficult decision about who to tell. Bupa's research shows that cancer patients who refrain from telling immediate family such as parents and siblings do so because they want life to carry on as normal as possible or because they want to protect those closest to them.
Much like the case of Debbie Wilby's daughter Leah who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was 8 years old. When the cancer returned when she was 14 she was told it was terminal and Leah decided to keep her diagnosis secret because she wanted to continue being treated normal by her school friends.
Debbie explained: "When her cancer came back, we didn't tell many people. She didn't want people to know. She didn't want pity from anybody. She wanted to carry on being a normal girl doing normal girl things. She had to have three weeks of radio therapy in Cambridge - we had to do that outside school time because she didn't want it to affect her school work and it would've aroused suspicion with her school friends. She even sat her GCSE's the week before she died."
Leah died just a couple of days after sitting her GCSES results in which her parents later discovered that she achieved 10 A* to C grades. Her family have now set up a charity in her name which will provide holidays for the families of children with cancer, you can find out more at theleahwilbyfoundation.co.uk.
Almost half of patients who admit they considered not telling parents and siblings about their cancer diagnosis said it was because they wouldn't want sympathy or special treatment, and almost a third admit they would want to deal with it themselves and manage on their own.
Jayne added: "We know people don't like worrying those close to them and many cancer patients try to put on a brave face. But talking to someone can help. Each of our customers with cancer are offered a named oncology nurse who provides support, particularly those choosing not to tell family or friends, by giving emotional and practical advice before, during and after treatment."
More than half of people said they would respect the decision if their family member or friend decided to keep them in the dark about their diagnosis, but others admitted they'd feel sad, disappointed and shocked by their decision.
How would you feel if your family member decided to keep their cancer diagnosis hidden?
Tagged in Cancer