Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Awareness and Knowledge of Cancer: A Community Survey in Kedah and Perlis

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Awareness and Knowledge of Cancer: A Community Survey in Kedah and Perlis

Article excerpt

Abstract

Cancer is one the leading causes of death in developed countries and the second leading cause of death in developing countries. Awareness and knowledge of the danger of cancer and the need for cancer screening and early detection can reduce the risk of cancer-related deaths. This study examines the level of awareness and knowledge of cancer, cancer risk factors and the need for cancer screening among the general public in the states of Kedah and Perils. This study also examines the relationship between residential location and education level and the awareness and knowledge of cancer. Findings from 544 respondents from urban, suburban and rural areas in Kedah and Perils showed that even though a high percentage of the respondents know about cancer, their level of awareness for the need for cancer screening is still low. Education, access to healthcare facilities and socio-cultural factors still influenced the likelihood of the people to go for cancer screening and get cancer treatment. Therefore, health information and communication and cancer screening awareness campaign should be intensified to reach the public especially to the rural population. These efforts and initiatives can increase public access to information about cancer, and cancer screening and treatment facilities among the rural population, and especially those belonging to high-risk groups.

Keywords: cancer, cancer screening, health awareness, urban, rural, Malaysia

1. Introduction

Cancer is dangerous and refers to the diseases that happen as a result of abnonnal growth and division of cells. There are several types of cancers, the most coimnon types affecting men are lung, stomach, liver, colon, rectum, oesophagus and prostate cancer, while those commonly affecting women include breast, lung, stomach, colon, rectum and cervical cancer (WHO, 2009). Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in developed countries and the second leading cause of death in developing countries. However, out of 12.7 million cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer-related deaths in 2008, 56% detected cases and 64% of the deaths occurred in developing countries (Jamel et al., 2011). Global cancer statistics show that developing countries have rising cancer-related deaths, especially among breast and cervical cancer cases. This is attributed to the low or lack of cancer awareness among the population (Okobia et al., 2006; Bhurgri et al., 2008) and delayed cancer screening and detection (Wong et al., 2009; Norsa'adah et al., 2011). Increasing cancer cases in developing countries is also linked to the ageing population, obesity rate, family history, and lifestyle choices such as smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activities (Norsa'adah et al., 2005; Ghazali et al., 2009).

The awareness of the dangers of cancer and the importance of screening and early detection can reduce the risk of cancer mortality (CDC, 2004). According to the National Cancer Society (2006), 80% of cancer cases can be treated if detected early. However, in developing countries like Malaysia, cancer cases are mainly detected at later or advanced stages (stages III or IV) (Ghazali et al., 2009). Detection at advanced stages can complicate patients' treatment, recovery and survival (Okobia et al., 2006; Wong et al., 2009). Late detection of the disease may be due to limited knowledge and awareness of the dangers of the disease. Apart from that, poverty, location factor and access to healthcare facilities also contribute to delayed screening, detection and treatment of cancer (Ghazali et al., 2009).

Given the low survival rate of cancer of advanced stages, the knowledge and awareness of cancer and cancer screening are extremely important (Okobia et al., 2006; Bhmgri et al, 2008; Rabeta Mohd Salleh et al., 2011). Delayed cancer screening, detection, and treatment still occur even though there are initiatives by the government to raise public awareness of cancer. For example, in Malaysia, the number of women who actually go for pap smear tests remain low despite its introduction to the country in 1969 (Wong et al. …

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