Womens awareness of cancer symptoms: A review of the literature

Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia.
Women s Health 09/2012; 8(5):579-91. DOI: 10.2217/whe.12.42
Source: PubMed


Improvements in cancer detection and treatment have led to consistent declines in mortality from many cancers. However, many patients present for treatment at a point where more invasive treatment is required and/or treatment outcomes are less than optimal. One factor that has been consistently shown to be associated with late diagnosis and treatment is delay in seeking help for symptoms. This paper reviews the literature on women's awareness of cancer symptoms and aims to identify knowledge gaps that need to be addressed in order to improve help-seeking behaviors. The discovery of substantial gaps in awareness suggest a need for improved community education regarding cancer symptoms.

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    • "Thus, socioeconomic and cultural status may act by psychosocial pathways. More acculturated people may have higher knowledge about health-related topics, be more aware of their symptoms and communicate better with health staff than low-cultural people [21,22]. Health risk behaviors are defined as habits or practices that increase an individual’s likelihood of harmful health outcomes. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Overall cancer incidence rates decreased in the most recent time period in both men and women, largely due to improvements in surgical therapeutic approaches (tertiary prevention) and screening programs (secondary prevention), but differences in cancer incidence and survival according to socioeconomic status are documented worldwide. Health risk behaviors, defined as habits or practices that increase an individual’s likelihood of harmful health outcomes, are thought to mediate such inequalities. Discussion Obesity has been related with increased cancer incidence and mortality due to imbalance of leptin and adiponectin which are connected to activation of PI3K, MAPK, and STAT3 pathways and decreasing insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 and mTOR signaling via activation of 5 AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), respectively. Physical activity has been associated to prevent cancer by the aforementioned obesity-related mechanisms, but also increasing level of circulating vitamin D, which has been related to lower risk of several cancers, and increasing prostaglandin F2a and reducing prostaglandin E2, which are both related with cancer prevention and promotion, respectively. A large number of different substances may induce themselves a direct cytotoxicity and mutagenic action on cells by smoking, whereas alcohol promote immune suppression, the delay of DNA repair, inhibition of the detoxification of carcinogens, the production of acetaldehyde, and the contribution to abnormal DNA methylation. The combined smoking and alcohol drinking habits have been shown to increase cancer risk by smoke action of increasing the acetaldehyde burden following alcohol consumption and alcohol action of enhancing the activation of various procarcinogens contained in tobacco smoke. Conclusions Interventions at the social level may be done to increase awareness about cancer risks and promote changing in unhealthy behaviors.
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