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Symptom awareness and cancer prevention: exploratory findings from an at‐risk population

Douglas Eadie (Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling and The Open University, Stirling, UK)
Susan MacAskill (Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling and The Open University, Stirling, UK)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 20 June 2008

Abstract

Purpose

Secondary prevention programmes have traditionally employed mass screening approaches to assess for asymptomatic signs of cancer. It has been suggested that early detection strategies involving public education and self‐referral may prove more cost‐effective with low risk populations for cancers with symptomatic presentation. This study, which was commissioned to inform the development of a cancer awareness campaign, aims to examine public perceptions of the early detection of cancer, the psycho‐social barriers to self‐referral amongst a key at‐risk population and the implications for patient education.

Design/methodology/approach

An exploratory study using qualitative focus groups with an at‐risk population of older people living in deprived communities in west‐central Scotland.

Findings

The findings reveal broad support for initiatives designed to raise symptom awareness. However, fear of cancer can lead to apparently irrational responses to symptoms and subsequent delay, particularly amongst men who are less likely to seek support from lay networks.

Originality/value

Early detection messages need to take account tone and symptom description to allay fears and ensure appropriate presentation. Consideration also needs to be given to the role played by lay and professional opinion formers to informing and supporting patients' decision to present with suspicious symptoms, particularly when targeting harder to reach patients of men, older people, and people living in deprived communities.

Keywords

Citation

Eadie, D. and MacAskill, S. (2008), "Symptom awareness and cancer prevention: exploratory findings from an at‐risk population", Health Education, Vol. 108 No. 4, pp. 332-345. https://doi.org/10.1108/09654280810884205

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited