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Title: The role of web-based information in help-seeking in those worried about lung cancer
Author: Mueller, Julia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7657 6815
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2018
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Background. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Low survival rates have been attributed to delays to diagnosis, and some patients report having symptoms for several months before presenting to health services. Strategies are needed to encourage timely help-seeking. The Web is increasingly used as a health information source. Aim. The aim of this thesis is to explore whether the Web plays a role in help-seeking behaviour of people with lung cancer prior to diagnosis, and how the Web can be utilised to encourage earlier presentation to health services for symptomatic people. Systematic review. To begin, I carried out a systematic review of the literature (N=34), which highlighted a scarcity of research on Web use for symptom appraisal among cancer populations. Mixed-methods study. I conducted a survey with recently diagnosed (6 months or less) lung cancer patients (N=113). Based on survey responses, I purposively selected a sub-sample of patients and their family/friends ("proxies") for semi-structured interviews (N=33). In the survey, 20.4% of participants reported they or proxies had researched their condition online before the diagnosis. Interview results suggest perceived impacts of online information on symptom appraisal, forming the decision to seek help, and on interactions with healthcare professionals. Intervention development and evaluation. Based on my findings, I developed a Web-based intervention. The intervention provides tailored information about lung cancer, and uses components based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour ("TPB-components") to encourage earlier help-seeking. This intervention was tested in an online feasibility study (N=130), and subsequently in an online randomised controlled trial (N=212) with a factorial design to test main and interaction effects of tailoring and TPB-components. The feasibility study and first trial helped identify methodological issues which were addressed in a second trial with a mixed factorial design. This trial (N=253) indicated that the self-reported likelihood of visiting a doctor increased significantly by 11.8% from before to after viewing study information (p < 0.001), but no effects of tailoring or TPB-components were found. When examining only those aged ≥50 years, who are at highest risk of lung cancer, those receiving tailored information reported an increase of 13.2% in likelihood of seeking help, compared to 3.2% in the untailored group (p=0.01). Participants aged 50+ receiving the TPB-component reported a larger increase (13.8%) than those who did not receive the TPB-component (5.2%), but this did not meet the significance criterion (p=0.054). Conclusions. According to patients' perceptions, the Web can impact on processes in the appraisal, help-seeking and diagnostic interval leading up to diagnosis. Presentation of information about symptoms and risk factors online can produce significant effects on self-reported likelihood of seeking help. These findings indicate that there is potential for the Web to be utlised in the endeavour to educate the public about symptoms and to promote earlier presentation to health services, but due to small effects and differential dropout in this study, further research is required.
Supervisor: Jay, Caroline ; Harper, Simon ; Todd, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: health information seeking ; Theory of Planned Behaviour ; tailored intervention ; Web ; online health information ; help-seeking ; lung cancer ; symptom appraisal