Purpose: Although a cancer diagnosis is linked with decrements to quality of life (QoL), it is unknown exactly when QoL starts to deteriorate, and whether this occurs during the pre-diagnostic pathway. This study aimed to examine QoL during this phase, and in addition investigate whether QoL levels influence decisions about seeking professional help. This is important, because early diagnosis is linked to lower cancer mortality rates.
Methods: Working alongside a Cancer Research UK Roadshow in socially-deprived communities, the recent QoL of adult visitors was assessed, before attending primary care. Using a cross-sectional design, we compared QoL in those presenting a potential cancer symptom/sign, with others seeking lifestyle advice to reduce cancer risk. Self-reported QoL (WHOQOL-BREF), and intention to seek help, were measured.
Results: Of 107 recruited, 50% were men. The potential cancer symptom group reported significantly poorer general QoL and psychological QoL, than lifestyle controls. Prior poorer physical QoL predicted stronger intentions to consult a general practitioner (GP) in the next two weeks, when controlling for symptom presence.
Conclusions: QoL is poorer for those with potential cancer symptoms, before they first seek advice from primary care. Poorer physical QoL is associated with stronger intentions to make a GP appointment. An implication for longer term health is that if public awareness about the impact of symptoms on QoL was raised, this could provide an impetus to seek help.