Understanding Variation in Men’s Help-Seeking for Cancer Symptoms: A Semistructured Interview Study

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Abstract

Men appear more likely to delay seeking medical advice for cancer symptoms, resulting in later stage at diagnosis and poorer health outcomes. Limited research has investigated variation in men’s experiences of and responses to cancer symptoms. This study examined the psychosocial aspects of men’s help-seeking for cancer symptoms, as well as potential variation across men residing in urban and rural Australia. Semistructured interviews were conducted with men recently diagnosed with cancer (n = 13). Participants’ partners (n = 8) were recruited to enable data triangulation. Interview schedules addressed participants’ pathway to cancer treatment, cancer knowledge, masculinity, and rural living. A theoretical thematic analysis approach was used. Medical help-seeking behavior was similar for participants residing in urban and rural areas. Five key themes and one subtheme were identified, including symptom factors, traditional masculine norms (subtheme: women’s health-related responsibilities), level of concern, conflicting responsibilities and access, and trust in medical professionals. Participants from rural Australia experienced greater access difficulties and noted optimism regarding symptoms. Results highlight important within-gender differences in the psychosocial barriers to help-seeking for cancer symptoms. Future research should further explore variation between men and test the predictive strength of factors.

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