Document Type: Research Articles
Department of Psychiatry, Samail Hospital, Ministry of Health, Muscat, Oman.
Directorate, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Oman.
Medical Oncology Unit, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman.
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman.
Objective: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth leading cause of mortality in Oman, with most patients diagnosed at advanced stages. Early diagnosis of CRC improves prognosis and survival rate. The aim of this study was to explore the symptom perceptions and help-seeking behaviours (HSBs) of Omani patients diagnosed with late-stage CRC. Methods: Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 16 patients. Results: Four main themes emerged, including normalisation and ignorance (patients felt healthy, perceived symptoms as not being serious and related to dietary habits, concealed them or prioritised work and family commitments), self-empowerment and self-management (patients were stubborn, employed ‘wait and see’ approach, used symptomatic or herbal treatments), disclosure and seeking help (patients disclosed symptoms to family members or friends, sought medical help only when symptoms worsened, visited faith healers or travelled abroad for treatment) and healthcare professionals (patients attributed treatment or diagnosis delays to lack of continuity of care, loss of trust in doctors or delays in referral). Conclusion: Patients attributed delays in CRC diagnosis to several factors based on their perceptions of symptoms. Most HSBs driven by sociocultural and emotional causes. Increased awareness of CRC symptoms and modifying HSBs can encourage early diagnosis. Prompting patients to disclose CRC-related symptoms may aid referral decisions.