Illness Representations of Cancer among Healthy Residents of Kolkata, India


Cancer illness representations and screening history among residents of Kolkata, India, were investigatedalong with socio-demographic characteristics in an effort to understand possible motivations for healthbehavior. A total of 106 participants were recruited from community locations in Kolkata, India and completedsurveys including demographics, the illness perception questionnaire-revised (IPQ-R), and previous experiencewith cancer and screening practices. Participants were 51.5% college educated, 57% female, 51.5% full-timeemployed with average age of 32.7 years (R: 18-60 years). Descriptive statistics were generated for the subscalesof the IPQ-R, cancer-screening practices and cancer experience. Correlation analyses were conducted toinvestigate associations between cancer representations and socio-demographic variables. Univariate ANOVAswere calculated to determine gender differences in IPQ-R subscales and differences between participants whoknew someone diagnosed with cancer versus those who did not. While 76% of participants knew someone withcancer, only 5% of the sample engaged in cancer screening. Participants perceived cancer as a serious illnesswith negative emotional valence. Younger age (r(100)=-.36, p<0.001) and male gender (F(1, 98)=5.22, p=0.01,η2=0.05) were associated with better illness coherence. Males also reported greater personal control (F(1,98)=5.34, p=0.02, η2=0.05) were associated with better illness coherence. Low screening rates precluded analysesof the relationship between illness representations and cancer screening. Cancer was viewed as a threateningand uncontrollable disease among this sample of educated, middle class Kolkata residents. This view may actas a barrier to seeking cancer screening. Public awareness campaigns aimed at improving understanding ofthe causes, symptoms and consequences of cancer might reduce misunderstandings and fear, especially amongwomen and older populations, who report less comprehension of cancer.