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Patient Educ Couns. 2001 Feb;42(2):145-57.

A qualitative study on detecting cancer symptoms and seeking medical help; an application of Andersen's model of total patient delay.

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  • 1Department of Health Education and Promotion, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Patient delay is the interval between the day someone first becomes aware of an unexplained symptom and the day they seek medical consultation. This pre-diagnostic period is comprised of several stages which may involve delay on the part of the individual. This study investigated factors influencing the process of detecting cancer symptoms and consulting a general practitioner (GP). Twenty-three patients were interviewed about their experiences during this process. Among factors stimulating the process of detection and consultation were associating symptoms with cancer, and discussing symptoms with others. Being ashamed or embarrassed about the symptoms and attributing symptoms to common ailments were among the impeding factors. The findings of the present study suggest that future health education on early detection of cancer should focus on increasing knowledge and providing positive information about early detection of cancer. It is recommended that educational materials be disseminated to the general public via more channels, including non-medical channels.

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