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Recognition of cancer warning signs and anticipated time to help-seeking in a population sample of adults in the UK

Quaife, S.L., Forbes, Lindsay J.L., Ramirez, A.J., Brain, K.E., Simon, A.E., Wardle, J. (2014) Recognition of cancer warning signs and anticipated time to help-seeking in a population sample of adults in the UK. British Journal of Cancer, 110 . pp. 12-18. ISSN 0007-0920. E-ISSN 1532-1827. (doi:10.1038/bjc.2013.684) (KAR id:53852)


Background: Not recognising a symptom as suspicious is a common reason given by cancer patients for delayed help-seeking; but inevitably this is retrospective. We therefore investigated associations between recognition of warning signs for breast, colorectal and lung cancer and anticipated time to help-seeking for symptoms of each cancer.

Methods: Computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted with a population-representative sample (N=6965) of UK adults age greater than or equal to50 years, using the Awareness and Beliefs about Cancer scale. Anticipated time to help-seeking for persistent cough, rectal bleeding and breast changes was categorised as >2 vs less than or equal to2 weeks. Recognition of persistent cough, unexplained bleeding and unexplained lump as cancer warning signs was assessed (yes/no). Associations between recognition and help-seeking were examined for each symptom controlling for demographics and perceived ease of health-care access.

Results: For each symptom, the odds of waiting for >2 weeks were significantly increased in those who did not recognise the related warning sign: breast changes: OR=2.45, 95% CI 1.47–4.08; rectal bleeding: OR=1.77, 1.36–2.30; persistent cough: OR=1.30, 1.17–1.46, independent of demographics and health-care access.

Conclusion: Recognition of warning signs was associated with anticipating faster help-seeking for potential symptoms of cancer. Strategies to improve recognition are likely to facilitate earlier diagnosis.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/bjc.2013.684
Uncontrolled keywords: symptom recognition; warning signs; anticipated delay; help-seeking; awareness
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Depositing User: Lindsay Forbes
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2016 14:41 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2021 14:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Forbes, Lindsay J.L..

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