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Durham e-Theses
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Help-Seeking among People with Symptoms of Lung or Colorectal Cancer: Experience and social context

DOBSON, CHRISTINA,MARY (2016) Help-Seeking among People with Symptoms of Lung or Colorectal Cancer: Experience and social context. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The UK has some of the poorest cancer outcomes in Europe, commonly attributed to diagnostic delays. The patient interval appears to be a substantial contributor to these, with awareness raising campaigns a key strategy for encouraging earlier presentation. However, research has identified a number of barriers to help-seeking beyond awareness, such as fear, concerns about wasting the doctor’s time, personal commitments and access.
This research sought to explore social context and help-seeking for people with symptoms of lung or colorectal cancer, comparing the experiences of prompt consulters with those who prolonged presentation. 164 people with symptoms of lung or colorectal cancer completed a questionnaire on symptom experience and social context and 26 of these took part in follow-up semi-structured interviews.
People with symptoms of bleeding or pain had shorter patient intervals than those experiencing other symptoms. Those with symptoms which were perceived of as severe body state deviations decided to seek help much quicker than those with general or systemic symptoms, who instead reappraised symptoms over time. Symptom appraisal and help-seeking processes were informed by numerous contributory elements, which were drawn from four contextual domains of a person's life; individual experience, interpersonal relationships, health care system interactions and social and temporal context. They included micro-level elements, such as exposure to carcinogens as well as macro-level factors, like social discourses on morality, calling into question the centrality of awareness-raising campaigns to encourage earlier presentation among the symptomatic population. A novel model The Contextual Model of the Patient Interval, is presented to illustrate this part of the diagnostic pathway.
The concept of risk is used to explain how people assess the necessity of help-seeking and the threshold of tolerability is introduced as a means of explaining the timing of help-seeking decision making, based on contextual contributory elements and symptom burden. The assessment of cancer risk is one contributory element which is explored in detail and its incorporation into calculations of the threshold of tolerability is considered. The idea of 'critical incidents' is used to explain the assessment of cancer risk among people who consulted quickly about symptoms, with 'cancer candidacy' being used to explain the cancer risk assessments undertaken by those with prolonged patient intervals.
In line with a societal focus on risk generally, public health developments have now resulted in a shift away from contagion and treatment, towards prediction and prevention, under the 'new public health' approach. The focus on risk and prevention has created an environment in which discourses of 'early presentation' and the 'good patient' have emerged. These discourses place moral obligations on people in relation to acceptable responses to symptoms and the need to present oneself as a 'good patient', which are explored through the examples of 'time wasting', the Be Clear on Cancer campaign, and discrepant reports of patient interval length from this study.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Dec 2016 11:54

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