Public awareness of cancer symptoms and barriers to early symptomatic presentation in England

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstractpeer-review


Background: England has lower cancer survival than other western countries. Lack of recognition of possible cancer symptoms and barriers to prompt presentation are considered likely to lead to delays in diagnosis, decreasing the chances of survival. This study aimed to explore socio-demographic and geographical differences in cancer symptom awareness and barriers to symptomatic presentation across England.

Methods: An analysis of population-based data, from 18 cross-sectional surveys, using theCancer Awareness Measure (CAM). In total, 49,271 adults were interviewed in telephone (15%) or face-to-face interviews (84%). Data were analysed using the Kruskal-Wallis test and multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Preliminary results show that on average, participants recognised 6.8 out of 9 cancer symptoms, with 40% recognising all nine. Recognition of symptoms ranged from 94% (‘unexplained lump/swelling’) to 68% (for both ‘persistent cough or hoarseness’ and ‘sore that does not heal’). Females, middle-aged people (55-64 years-old), who were married, of higher socio-economic status and people having a white background were more likely to recognise symptoms. Participants perceived on average three barriers to symptomatic presentation out of a possible 10. The most commonly perceived barriers to help-seeking were ‘worry about what the doctor might find’ (reported by 29% of participants) and ‘worry about wasting the doctor’s time’ (reported by 23% of participants). Females, people with Asian background, older people (75+ year-olds), and people living in the most deprived areas perceived more barriers than their corresponding groups. We are currently conducting analyses in geographical level variations in cancer awareness and barriers to presentation across England.

Conclusions: Public cancer symptom awareness is relatively high in England, but fewer than four in ten of the population can recognise all nine cancer symptoms. Approximately a quarter of the population is likely to experience at least one barrier to help-seeking once they detect an unexplained symptom. There are socio-demographic differences in perception of barriers to presentation and recognition of cancer symptoms.Targeted health interventions should be developed to empower help-seeking, which could encourage early presentation and improve cancer survival in England.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNational Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), Cancer Outcomes Conference 2014 - The power of information, Birmingham, UK
Subtitle of host publicationLunch plus poster and exhibition viewing, 09-JUN-2014, 12:15 - 13:30
PublisherPHE Conferences and Events
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2014
EventCancer Outcomes Conference 2014 - The power of information - Hilton Birmingham Metropole, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jun 201410 Jun 2014


ConferenceCancer Outcomes Conference 2014 - The power of information
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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