The purpose of this study was to determine the time elapsed between the first symptoms and seeking medical help, factors contributing to the delay and disease perception in patients with colorectal cancer.
The study was conducted at the medical oncology outpatient clinic of a University Hospital in Ankara and included 114 patients who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The data were obtained by using the questionnaire form and the brief illness perception questionnaire. The elapsed time between patients’ first symptoms and seeking medical health was classified into ‘‘normal’’ when it was less than one month, ‘‘delay’’ when it was between one and three months, ‘‘long-term delay’’ when it was more than three months, and ‘‘very serious delay’’ when it was more than six months. In the analysis of the data, chi-square test, one-way analysis of variance and correlation tests were used.
The mean elapsed time between patients’ first symptoms and seeking medical health was 7.27±11.02 month (range: 1 - 62.5 month), 60.6% of patients were delayed over a month and there is a serious delay in 31.6% of them. Most of the patients (76.3%) stated that they did not know the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and 16.7% stated that they had a screening test. It was determined that 89.9% of patients experienced symptoms and signs before colorectal cancer diagnosis. The most common complaints were changes in bowel habits (20.3%), rectal bleeding (14.1%) and abdominal pain (10.3%). When the factors contributing to the delay were evaluated, 60% of them did not stated any reason, 17% stated perceiving the symptoms as temporary or insignificant. A significant relationship was found between the delay in diagnosis and level of education and the change in bowel habit (p<0.05). The mean score of brief illness perception was found to be 21.74 ± 11.36 (range: 0- 56). The three most important factors that they believed to cause illness were stress (32.8%), nutrition (24.9%) and sadness (13.6%).
Although the individuals participating in the study have symptoms that may be a symptom of colorectal cancer; there was considerable delay in the time to seeking medical help due to lack of awareness about the symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Clinical trial identification
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Has not received any funding.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.