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Eur J Public Health. 2017 Oct 1;27(5):808-813. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckx064.

Do perceived barriers to clinical presentation affect anticipated time to presenting with cancer symptoms: an ICBP study.

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Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK.
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London, UK.
Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK.
Institute of Clinical Science-University Road, School of Nursing, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK.
Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Cancer survival in the UK and Denmark are lower when compared with similar countries with late diagnosis a possible cause. We aimed to study the relationship between barriers to attending a primary care physician (GP) and anticipated time to help seeking (ATHS) with four cancer symptoms in six countries.


A population-based survey measuring cancer awareness and beliefs conducted within the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and UK. Data were collected on perceived barriers to GP consultation (including embarrassment, worry about wasting the doctors' time, fear about what the doctor might find and being too busy) and ATHS for persistent cough, abdominal swelling, rectal bleeding and breast changes. Relationships between perceived barriers and ATHS were investigated using multivariable analysis.


Among 19 079 respondents, higher perceived barrier scores were associated with longer ATHS intervals for all symptoms studied (P < 0.01) responders with the highest barrier scores (>10.84) had between two and three times the odds of longer ATHS. ATHS was low in Australia for all symptoms and highest in Denmark for abdominal bloating.


Perceived barriers to help-seeking have a role in delaying GP presentation. Early diagnosis campaigns should address emotional and practical barriers that reduce early presentation with potential cancer symptoms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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