A study in the Health Expectations Journal has explored attitudes towards lung cancer screening in socioeconomically deprived and heavy smoking communities.
Researchers from University College London identified that low participation from higher risk groups could limit the effectiveness of any national lung screening programme.
They designed a study to compare smokers’ beliefs about lung cancer screening with those of former and never smokers within a low socioeconomic status (SES) sample, to explore the views of lower SES smokers and ex-smokers in-depth, and to provide insights into effective engagement strategies.
They surveyed 175 individuals from socioeconomically deprived communities with high smoking prevalence and subsequently interviewed 21 smokers and ex-smokers.
Interviewees were supportive of screening in principle, but many were doubtful about its ability to deliver long-term survival benefit for their generation of “heavy smokers.”
Lung cancer was perceived as an uncontrollable disease, and the survey data showed that fatalism, worry and perceived risk of lung cancer were particularly high among smokers compared with non-smokers.
Perceived blame and stigma around lung cancer as a self-inflicted smokers’ disease were implicated by interviewees as important social deterrents of screening participation.
The belief that lungs are not a treatable organ appeared to be a common lay explanation for poor survival and undermined the potential value of screening.
The researchers conclude that strategies to engage these communities in screening need to be carefully devised to achieve equitable participation.
The full study can be read on the Health Expectations website.
Quaife, S. L., Marlow, L. A. V., McEwen, A., Janes, S. M. and Wardle, J. (2016), Attitudes towards lung cancer screening in socioeconomically deprived and heavy smoking communities: informing screening communication. Health Expectations. doi: 10.1111/hex.12481