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Influences of cancer symptom knowledge, beliefs and barriers on cancer symptom presentation in relation to socioeconomic deprivation: a systematic review

McCutchan, Grace ORCID:, Wood, Fiona ORCID:, Edwards, Adrian G. ORCID:, Richards, Rebecca and Brain, Kate E. 2015. Influences of cancer symptom knowledge, beliefs and barriers on cancer symptom presentation in relation to socioeconomic deprivation: a systematic review. BMC Cancer 15 , 1000. 10.1186/s12885-015-1972-8

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Background People from lower socioeconomic groups have worse survival outcomes for cancer, which in part reflects later-stage disease at diagnosis. The mechanisms underlying delayed cancer symptom presentation in lower socioeconomic groups are not well understood. Methods Systematic review of studies of actual or anticipated symptom presentation across all tumour sites. Included studies measured socioeconomic group, symptom presentation and one or more of the following variables: cancer symptom knowledge, beliefs about cancer, barriers/facilitators to symptom presentation. Results A total of 60 studies was included. Symptom knowledge overall was lowest and actual presentation time was longest in lower socioeconomic groups. Knowledge for specific symptoms such as lumps and bleeding was good and encouraged timely symptom presentation, in contrast to non-specific symptoms which were not well recognised. The combination of fearful and fatalistic beliefs was typically associated with later presentation, especially in lower socioeconomic groups. Emotional barriers such as ‘worry what the doctor might find’ were more frequently reported in lower socioeconomic groups, and there was evidence to suggest that disclosing symptoms to family/friends could help or hinder early presentation. Conclusions Poor symptom knowledge, fearful and fatalistic beliefs about cancer, and emotional barriers combine to prolong symptom presentation among lower socioeconomic groups. Targeted interventions should utilise social networks to improve knowledge of non-specific symptoms, challenge negative beliefs and encourage help-seeking, in order to reduce avoidable delays and minimise socioeconomic group inequalities.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1471-2407
Funders: Tenovus Cancer Care
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 3 December 2015
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2023 02:06

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