Thousands of people with cancer are too ashamed to seek help for 'taboo' problems, ranging from money worries to sexual function.

Campaigners said embarrassment could be putting patients' health and recovery at risk.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support found that 60 per cent of people would find it difficult to talk about how cancer had impacted on their sex life or relationship, with 47% saying they would struggle to even talk to their partner, close friends or family about it.

Read more: Blue water school 'is safe and has not caused cancer', says headteacher

 However, the survey also found that this was one of the most common side effects of the disease and cancer treatment, with one in three people with cancer in Scotland saying that it reduced their ability or desire to have sex.

The poll shows that other major cancer taboos in Scotland were talking about problems with bowel or bladder function (48%), financial difficulties (49%) and feelings of sadness and depression (41%).

Case study: 'I had always worked - it was embarrassing talking about money and debt'

 Macmillan’s head in Scotland, Janice Preston, said: “It’s heart-breaking that despite dealing with a life-threatening illness, people are too embarrassed to ask for help with physical, mental and financial problems that brings.

 “I understand it can be difficult to talk about issues like incontinence, sexual problems or mental health issues, but not addressing them can leave people struggling to cope until they hit crisis point.

 “We all have a responsibility to talk honestly about how cancer affects people. Unless we, as a society, get over our embarrassment, people with cancer will continue to struggle alone with serious issues when help is often just one conversation or phone call away.”

Read more: Mother's agony as two of her three sons inherit rare blindness disorder 

Katie Goldie, a senior cancer information nurse specialist in Glasgow, said: “I work on Macmillan’s support line and think sometimes people find it easier to talk to us about taboo issues, than to talk to someone face to face, but even then we hear all the time that people delayed calling us because of embarrassment.

 “When they do finally call, one of the main things we hear is ‘I wish I’d called sooner’.

"They talk about issues like incontinence, sexual problems and financial worries and this is often the first time they’ve felt able to talk.”

 Mandy Macfarlane, 45, from Glasgow, was diagnosed with incurable secondary breast cancer in 2009, just nine months after the birth of her second child. She said it put a huge strain on her marriage.

 She said: “We were all trying to be strong for each other, no one wanting to talk about how they felt in case it upset someone else.

"It became a kind of taboo between us.

 “I used to wait until he fell asleep and then I cried. The lack of communication between us put our marriage under tremendous strain and we separated for a month.

"Thankfully we came out stronger, but it’s so common that spouses struggle."