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Cancer awareness campaigns must be ethnically targeted says report

1 July 2016

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Health campaigns tailored to different cultures are “vital” to ensuring people from all ethnic groups get cancer symptoms checked early, according to new research.

The research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is the largest study looking at ethnic differences in public awareness of cancer symptoms.

Ethnic differences in cancer symptom awareness and barriers to seeking medical help in England also looks at the barriers that all large ethnic groups living in the country face when seeking medical help.

Maja Niksic, lead author of the research at King’s College London, said: “Our research highlights important differences in cancer symptom awareness between the white people and ethnic minorities, as well as between different ethnic minority groups in England.

“Acknowledging these differences could encourage more people to get potential cancer symptoms checked early.

“The large size of this study meant that we were able to look at very specific ethnic groups.

“For example, instead of grouping all South Asians together we were able to separate Indians from Pakistanis and Bangladeshi people, and black Africans from black Caribbeans as these groups have very different needs, which should be addressed when developing campaigns.”

Using data from 18 surveys, researchers found that recognition of potential cancer symptoms was lower among minority ethnic groups.

Bangladeshis and black Africans were found to recognise the smallest number of potential cancer symptom.

Barriers to seeing the doctor were also reported to be higher in minority groups.

South Asians are more likely than white British people to report emotional and practical barriers to seeing their doctor, such as lacking confidence or feeling embarrassed.

However, white British people were more likely than any other ethnic group to say that feeling worried about wasting a doctor’s time would stop them from seeking medical help, even if they noticed a potentially serious system.

Black Africans were least likely to report barriers to seeking medical advice.

Jessica Kirby, Cancer Research UK’s senior health information manager, said: “We know that people from some ethnic minority groups are less likely to be aware of cancer symptoms and less likely to report symptoms to their GP.

“This research highlights the need for better campaigns that are tailored to address the differences in awareness between ethnic groups in England.

“It’s important that everyone knows what’s normal for their body and can see a doctor if they notice anything unusual.

“Recognising and reporting potential cancer symptoms early could help spot the disease at an early stage giving a better chance of survival.”