Lay Beliefs, Knowledge, and Attitudes Towards Cancer: a Pilot Study in Japan


Background: The attendance rates for cancer screening are low in Japan. Little is actually known about howthe Japanese perceive cancer. Since beliefs about illness affect individuals’ health care practice, the aim of thisstudy was to explore beliefs about cancer and factors associated with those beliefs, focusing on representativecancer sites. Materials and
Methods: Japanese adults (≥20 years old) who had not been diagnosed with anycancers and were not health care professionals were recruited, using a convenience sampling approach. A total of91 participants completed questionnaires including open-ended questions. Thematic analysis was used to analyzethe responses.
Results: Five themes were suggested: (i) a threatening illness that might greatly change one’sfuture life; (ii) basic cancer knowledge; (iii) a curable illness with early detection and adequate treatment; (iv)causes of cancer; and (v) anyone can develop cancer. Families or friends’ negative consequences of cancer wereassociated with negative beliefs about the disease. Gestational cancer was the most representative site of mostthemes.
Conclusions: A threatening illness (e.g., death or incurable illness) was the most common belief amongthe Japanese laypeople. Importance of early detection and treatments should be more emphasized, and futurescreening programs should include strategies modifying negative cancer beliefs among Japanese laypeople.