Background and Aim: Less than 50% of oral cancer cases are diagnosed at early stages of the disease andthis is in part due to poor awareness and lack of knowledge on the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. This studysought to measure the baseline awareness of oral cancer in Malaysia and aimed to increase public awarenessand knowledge of oral cancer using a mass media campaign.
Methods: Baseline awareness and impact of thecampaign was measured using self-administered questionnaires sent via email to individuals. The campaign wasaired on two national television channels and the reach was monitored through an independent programmemonitoring system.
Results: 78.2% of respondents had heard of oral cancer, and this increased significantly afterthe campaign. However, the ability to recognize signs and symptoms remains unchanged. We found that the levelof awareness differed between the distinct ethnic subgroups and the reach of the campaign was not uniformacross all ethnicities.
Conclusion: This substantial study to measure the oral cancer awareness in Malaysiaprovides important baseline data for the planning of public health policies. Despite encouraging evidence thata mass media campaign could increase the awareness of oral cancer, further research is required to addressthe acceptability, comprehensiveness and effectiveness. Furthermore, different campaign approaches may berequired for specific ethnic groups in a multi-ethnic country such as Malaysia.