Knowledge of Cancer Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Barriers to Seeking Medical Help among Omani Adolescents

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

1 Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Sultanate of Oman.

2 Research Department, Oman Medical Specialty Board Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.

Abstract

Objective: Raising cancer awareness among adolescents should lead to early diagnosis and improve their survival rate into adulthood. This study aims to identify knowledge of cancer risk factors, symptoms and barriers to seek medical help among Omani adolescents. Methods: A cross-sectional study with Omani adolescents (aged 15-17 years) has been conducted in six schools in Muscat, the capital of Oman. The general Cancer Awareness Measure questionnaire was used to collect the data. Results: A total of 481 adolescents participated. The average recognition of cancer risk factors and symptoms was low (36.8% and 39.6%, respectively). Cancer risk factors and/or symptoms significantly recognised more in girls compared to boys (χ2 = 10.136; Odds ratio [OR] = 2.13 ; 95% confidence interval [CI]= 0.33-3.41; P = 0.001); older (age 17 year) versus younger (aged 15 and 16 years) (χ2 = 6.075; OR = 11.68; 95% CI: 1.11-2.53; P = 0.014); those with existing co-morbidities compared to those without (χ2 = 4.955; OR = 0.41; 95% CI: 0.18-0.92; P = 0.026); and those who knew someone with cancer compared to those who did not (χ2 = 15.285; OR 2.70; 95% CI: 1.62-4.49; P <0.001). The majority of adolescents (88.8%) would seek medical help within the first two weeks of noting cancer symptoms. The most notable barriers to seek medical help were “emotional”. Girls were experienced “emotional barriers” significantly more than the boys (χ2 = 11.617; OR = 1.89; 95% CI: 1.31-2.72; P = <0.001). Conclusion: Adolescents in Oman showed poor cancer awareness with several “emotional” barriers. There is a need to establish and integrate effective cancer educational programs in school curriculums to raise the cancer awareness, address emotional barriers and encourage seeking early medical help. The program could potentially have a life-long impact on encouraging early cancer diagnosis and improving the cancer survival rate.

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