Increased cancer awareness among British adolescents after a school-based educational intervention: a controlled before-and-after study with 6-month follow-up
BACKGROUND:There is a lack of evidence around the effectiveness of school-based interventions designed to raise adolescents' cancer awareness. To address this deficit this study assessed the impact of an intervention delivered in the United Kingdom by Teenage Cancer Trust on: recall (open question) and recognition (closed question) of cancer warning signs; knowledge of common childhood, teenage, male and female cancers; awareness of the relationship between cancer and age; anticipated medical help-seeking delay; perceived barriers to seeking medical advice about cancer; and examined variation of intervention effect by gender and whether adolescents reported that they knew someone with cancer.METHODS:The Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) was completed by 422 adolescents (male: 221, 52.4%) aged 11-17 years old (mean age=13.8, standard deviation=1.26) two weeks before and two weeks after the intervention in three schools, and on two occasions four weeks apart in a fourth (control) school. Intervention schools were followed-up 6-months post-intervention.RESULTS:Recognition of nine common cancer warning signs significantly increased two weeks after the intervention (4.6 to 6.8, p<0.001) and was maintained at 6-month follow-up (6.2, p<0.001). Endorsement of emotional barriers to help-seeking 'not confident to talk about symptoms' (53% to 45%, p=0.021) and 'worried about what the doctor might find' (70% to 63%, p=0.021) significantly decreased two weeks after the intervention but changes were not maintained at 6-months. The intervention had a greater impact on females and those who knew someone with cancer.CONCLUSIONS:The intervention is an effective way to raise adolescents' cancer awareness, especially of cancer symptoms. Further development and evaluation is required to maximise intervention impact, particularly on barriers to help-seeking behaviour.