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O29 - Cancer Control & Epidemiology IV (ID 132)
- Event: WCLC 2013
- Type: Oral Abstract Session
- Track: Prevention & Epidemiology
- Presentations: 1
O29.01 - Awareness about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer in Australia, a mixed methods study (ID 2583)
10:30 - 12:00 | Author(s): B. O'Hara
The risk of developing lung cancer increases with age and is highly associated with exposure to tobacco smoking. This study aimed to understand public awareness about the risk of developing lung cancer in New South Wales (NSW), Australia and to investigate attitudes and beliefs about lung cancer which could potentially impact health seeking behaviours regarding symptoms of lung cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer increases with age and is highly associated with exposure to tobacco smoking. This study aimed to understand public awareness about the risk of developing lung cancer in New South Wales (NSW), Australia and to investigate attitudes and beliefs about lung cancer which could potentially impact health seeking behaviours regarding symptoms of lung cancer.
A mixed methods triangulation approach was used, with a sequential-parallel design which incorporated 16 qualitative focus groups (n=125) to explore themes. Participants were aged 45+ from metropolitan and regional centres and grouped according to smoking status (current, former and never smokers). Data were analysed by content and thematically. A cross sectional quantitative telephone survey (n=1,000) followed to determine overall awareness and generalisability of findings amongst adults >45 years across NSW.
The qualitative research highlighted that symptoms of haemoptysis, dyspnoea and an unusual or persistent cough were well recognised symptoms of lung cancer however participants were more likely to assume these symptoms were related to other health problems. Haemoptysis was the only symptom which created a sense of urgency to seek immediate medical attention. A ‘wait and see’ attitude towards any concerning symptom was prevalent across groups, only severe/ long term persistent symptoms would induce action. Smokers and former heavy smokers were more likely to say they would delay seeing their doctor because of perceived stigma associated with smoking. Older participants were more likely to rely on previous experiences of symptoms to govern their health seeking behaviour. Perceived susceptibility and understanding of causes of lung cancer differed by smoking status; smokers more likely to down-play the risk of smoking or attempt to offset their risk through lifestyle choices. Former smokers were more likely to perceive their risk comparative with a never smoker. The quantitative research findings suggested that unprompted awareness of lung cancer related symptoms was high with 88.5% able to correctly identify ≥1 symptoms however symptoms were more typical of late stage cancer. Age(<65 years), sex(female) and high socio-economic status were associated with higher recognition of symptoms (p<0.05). The majority of the survey respondents identified smoking as a cause of lung cancer (90.6%, 95%Confidence Interval (CI) 88.4-92.8) however fewer recognised the risk from second-hand smoke (25.6%,95%CI22.3-28.9). Ever-smokers were less likely to recognise the risk of smoking (odds ratio 0.7 95%CI0.5-0.9).
These findings provide evidence that while awareness of lung cancer symptoms and causative factors is reasonably understood in the community, perceived susceptibility is low (particularly among current and former smokers). A lack of urgency in seeking medical attention for symptoms considered not severe, together with other smoking-related barriers, may lead to further delays in diagnosis and missed opportunity for surgical treatment.
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