To determine whether an educational programme delivered by Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) increases adolescents’ cancer awareness.
‘Let’s talk about it’ is a one hour oral presentation delivered by TCT to adolescents in over 600 UK schools each year. Topics covered include: an introduction to cancer, identification of cancer warning signs, the impact of cancer, and the importance of taking responsibility for your own health and well-being. To assess the impact of this intervention a modified Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) was completed by 422 adolescents (male: 52.4%) aged 11-17 years (M=13.8, SD=1.26) recruited from four UK schools in Autumn 2011. The questionnaire was completed two weeks pre and post the intervention in three schools, and twice, four weeks apart in a fourth (control) school. Socio-demographic questions were included to gather data on gender and whether the student had been diagnosed with cancer or knew a relative or friend who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Recognition of cancer warning signs significantly increased in the intervention schools (4.6 [SD=2.21] to 6.8 [SD=2.26] out of 9, Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test T=2,247.5, p<0.001). Significantly fewer students reported that they did not know the most common childhood (49% to 27%, McNemar’s chi-square (χ2M ) test: p<0.001) and teenage (48% to 36%, χ2M: p<0.001) cancers. Endorsement of emotional barriers to help-seeking ‘not confident to talk about symptoms’ (53% to 45%, χ2M: p=0.021) and ‘worried about what the doctor might find’ (70% to 63%, χ2M: p=0.021) significantly decreased. In the control school there were no statistically significant changes in adolescents’ knowledge of the most common childhood and teenage cancers or endorsement of emotional barriers to help-seeking.
Future studies should consider developing this intervention and evaluating the impact of different methods used to raise adolescents’ cancer awareness and include both individual- and school-level explanatory variables.