Community cancer awareness programs: symptom awareness alone doesn’t suffice

AbdulKhader Shehna, Firosh Khan, Ajith Kumar, Jayaraman Balan, Sona Ram


Background: Although cancer is a global public health problem, maximum impact is on developing economies. In India, socio-cultural factors also operate to add the burden. Aim of the study was to delineate factors causing late presentation of cancers to the point of care.

Methods: We gave cancer awareness classes to a village community, preceded by a campaign to attend the classes with the help of a local trustee organisation and primary health center. Data was collected from the attendees using a structured questionnaire prepared to dissect out the awareness about cancer symptoms and concerns about treatment.

Results: Only 1.8% of the total population of the area under study attended the classes. Out of the 411 attendees, 323 (78.6%) responded to the questionnaire and of them, 294 (91%) identified the site wise symptoms of cancer clearly and 40 (12.4%) detected their own symptoms warranting cancer screening. Commonest concern was the cost of treatment (40.9%). There were people thinking that cancer is not a life-style disease (3.1%), it is genetic (7.7%), it may be due to fate alone (6.2%), it is contagious (5%), and it cannot be cured (3.7%).

Conclusions: Despite high health status indices, literacy rate and high knowledge about cancer symptoms, there are still a lot of superstitions about cancer in Kerala. The most common reason preventing people from approaching health care system with early symptoms of cancer is the fear of cost of treatment. Apart from teaching symptoms of cancer, cancer awareness programs should include familiarisation of various financial aids available for cancer treatment.


Community cancer awareness, Cancer survey, Cancer cost

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