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  • Men’s experiences of seeking help for cancer

    11 May 2016

    In a joint partnership between Cancer Council SA and Flinders University, new research has explored men’s experiences of cancer and issues that might be related to seeking help for cancer symptoms.

    PhD student Jennifer Fish interviewed men from urban and rural South Australia about their firsthand experience with cancer and help-seeking with healthcare professionals.

    Jennifer said that the next step of this research involves a follow-up study, and called on South Australian men and women to complete a survey to gain a greater insight into men’s triggers for seeking help to address health concerns.

    “We all notice changes in our bodies from time to time. These changes may be caused by normal bodily processes, emotions, the environment, or disease,” said Jennifer.

    “While most men seek medical advice if they notice a bodily change that is a warning sign of cancer, a considerable proportion of men delay help-seeking.

    “Finding cancer early can be important for successful treatment and survival. We wanted to understand men’s experiences of cancer and explore issues that might be related to seeking help for cancer symptoms.”

    Research findings will be presented this month at the international conference of the British Psychological Society in Nottingham, UK. The research suggests several risk factors for delayed help-seeking.

    “Some participants self-diagnose cancer symptoms as harmless,” said Jennifer. 

    “It wasn’t until symptoms became a greater issue or progressed in severity that participants sought professional medical advice.

    “Participants also occasionally reported self-monitoring their symptoms and prioritising other responsibilities such as work, travel, and other medical issues which delayed seeking professional advice.”

    A key facilitator of men’s help-seeking appears to be support and encouragement from partners and family members.

    “In a couple of cases, the symptom was first noticed by the partner rather than the individual themselves, and accompanying advice prompted help-seeking,” said Jennifer.

    “For self-detected symptoms, men commonly sought help informally with others before seeking professional medical advice.”

    The research findings will be presented in relation to a follow-up study.

    “As a limited number of men were interviewed for the study, the importance of these factors is unknown. To better understand help-seeking for symptoms, we are inviting South Australian men and women aged 18 years and over to participate in a further survey study. Participants do not need to have had any health issues to participate in this research.”

    For more information about the study and/or to participate visit: http://tinyurl.com/helpseekingAU 

    Professor Carlene Wilson from Cancer Council SA and the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, Flinders University is the principal supervisor for this project.

    For cancer information and support, please call Cancer Council 13 11 20, Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 5:30pm.

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