PURPOSE: Raising awareness of colorectal cancer (CRC) symptoms for early recognition, reduction of modifiable risk factors, and removing barriers to seeking medical help could lower its mortality. This study aimed to assess the level of public awareness of CRC in the Gaza Strip.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study conducted at three hospitals and 10 high schools between September and October 2017. The Arabic version of the validated Bowel Cancer Awareness Measure (BoCAM) questionnaire was used to evaluate awareness of CRC symptoms and risk factors, and barriers to seeking medical help. Adults (age ≥ 18 years) in three major hospitals and adolescents (ages 15 to 17 years) in 10 schools were recruited for face-to-face interviews to complete the BoCAM.
RESULTS: Of 3,172 potential participants, 3,080 completed the BoCAM (response rate, 97.1%). Among these, 1,578 (51.2%) were adults and 1,614 (52.4%) were females. Persistent abdominal pain was the most commonly recognized CRC symptom (n = 1,899; 61.7%), whereas anorectal pain was the least common (n = 1,056; 34.3%). In total, 2,177 (70.7%) were not confident in recognizing CRC symptoms or signs. Having a bowel disease was the most frequently recognized CRC risk factor (n = 1,456; 47.3%) and diabetes the least recognized (n = 591; 19.2%). The overall mean scores ± standard deviations for recalling and recognizing CRC symptoms were 1.2 ± 1.3 and 4.3 ± 2.3, respectively (out of 9 points). The overall mean scores ± standard deviations for recalling and recognizing CRC risk factors were 0.7 ± 0.8 and 8.0 ± 3.1, respectively (out of 16 points). Emotional barriers were the most commonly reported barriers to seeking medical help, with feeling worried about what a doctor might find as the most common barrier (n = 1,522; 49.4%).
CONCLUSION: Public awareness of CRC is suboptimal in Gaza. Improving CRC awareness with educational interventions is needed, including in local schools.