Cancer worries New Zealanders more than any other disease or disability.
A Southern Cross Health Society survey of nearly 1500 adults with health insurance found that cancer was the most feared health issue.
A brain injury was the second most-feared health issue, followed by stroke, heart attack and the loss of eyesight.
Southern Cross Health Society chief executive Peter Tynan said it was possible the fear of cancer stemmed from its unknown nature.
“Sometimes cancer can seem to strike at random – even being young and healthy is no guarantee. But while science doesn’t yet fully understand its causes, what is known is that preventative steps and a healthy lifestyle can help to reduce our risk. With many cancers, early detection is crucial to survival, so keeping up screening is vital.”
The survey showed that large numbers of people were taking the steps needed to help reduce their risk of cancer and other health issues. Nine out of ten had their blood pressure checked in the last year, and six out of ten had a cholesterol check.
82% of men aged 55-64 and 93% of men aged 65 and over had a prostate cancer screening test in the last year, while the large majority of eligible women underwent regular screening for breast and cervical cancer.
Tynan said the one age group where cancer was not the top concern was those aged 65 and over. They rated stroke as the medical condition they most feared – perhaps reflecting their worry about loss of independence and quality of life.
“The good news is that stroke is largely preventable and our risk can be greatly reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and regular monitoring. Failure to control high blood pressure is the number one cause of avoidable strokes, so it’s great to see so many of our members are taking the step of getting regularly checked.”