EPR20-071: Cancer Perception, Myths and Disparities Among Turkish Population: A Qualitative Study

Background: Cancer has become one of the most challenging and feared diseases in the 21 st century. Negative opinions, myths and stigmas to cancer may influence attitudes to cancer prevention, screening and treatment. This study aims to assess current level of cancer awareness and perception among Turkish population. Methods: The study was designed as a cross-sectional and qualitative study. The participants were selected according to EUROSTAT NUTS-2. 1049 participants were included and individuals known to have a cancer were excluded from the study. Individual face-to-face interview was performed between March-April 2019. T-test was performed to determine association between cancer perception and age, gender or socioeconomic status (SES). All data were analyzed with using SPSS software. Results: Nearly half of respondents (49%) believed genetically modified organisms (GMO) causes cancer. Only 4 out of 100 people perceived burnt food as carcinogenic. 82% of participants believed “stress causes cancer” with similar distribution across different groups. Nearly half of people (54%) perceived “Sugar consumption results with spreading of cancer”. 70% of people opposed the definition of cancer as contagious whereas 15% of them agreed. 30% of respondents identified elimination of pain among cancer patients as unachievable. According to 38% of the population, cancer treatment is commercial and they suspected although groundbreaking treatment to cure cancer has been discovered, the scientists have hidden from the world. Almost all respondents (96%) were aware of chemotherapy as a treatment followed by surgery (76%) and radiotherapy (75%). 30% of the population had suspicion of surgery causing to spread of cancer. Only 35% and 33% of participants knew hormonal and targeted therapy respectively. Almost half of the respondents (46%) believed alternative treatment as a solution for cancer. Only 29% of respondents confirmed to take precautions for cancer prevention. “Family and friend” (67%) was the most popular source for cancer information followed by TV programs (48%) and doctors (46%). Conclusions: The study revealed cancer stigma and lack of cancer knowledge in the society. Recognition of public perception of cancer needs to be considered to tailor design of cancer programs. Regarding media as a highly influential cancer source, physicians should promote evidence-based contents for higher quality coverage of cancer in the media.

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Corresponding Author: Mustafa Cetiner, MD
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