Multiple Stakeholder Perspectives on Cancer Stigma in North India


Background: Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. A large proportion of cancer deaths are preventablethrough early detection but there are a range of social, emotional, cultural and financial dimensions that hinderthe effectiveness of cancer prevention and treatment efforts. Cancer stigma is one such barrier and is increasinglyrecognized as an important factor influencing health awareness and promotion, and hence, disease prevention andcontrol. The impact and extent of stigma on the cancer early detection and care continuum is poorly understoodin India.
Objectives: To evaluate cancer awareness and stigma from multiple stakeholder perspectives in NorthIndia, including men and women from the general population, health care professionals and educators, andcancer survivors. Materials and
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted with in-depth interviews (IDIs)and focus group discussions (FGDs) among 39 individuals over a period of 3 months in 2014. Three groups ofparticipants were chosen purposively - 1) men and women who attended cancer screening camps held by theIndian Cancer Society, Delhi; 2) health care providers and 3) cancer survivors.
Results: Most participants wereunaware of what cancers are in general, their causes and ways of prevention. Attitudes of families towardscancer patients were observed to be positive and caring. Nevertheless, stigma and its impact emerged as a crosscutting theme across all groups. Cost of treatment, lack of awarenes and beliefs in alternate medicines wereidentified as some of the major barriers to seeking care.
Conclusions: This study suggests a need for spreadingawareness, knowledge about cancers and assessing associated impact among the people. Also Future research isrecommended to help eradicate stigma from the society and reduce cancer-related stigma in the Indian context.