A descriptive study comparing health attitudes of urban and rural oncology patients

Howat, A., Veitch, C., and Cairns, W. (2006) A descriptive study comparing health attitudes of urban and rural oncology patients. Rural and Remote Health, 6 (4). pp. 1-9.

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Introduction: Rural patients have poor outcomes in cancer management. Previous studies have shown different health beliefs and values in rural populations with high levels of stoicism and fatalism, leading to later presentation and diagnosis, with subsequent poorer prognosis and survival. This study explores the relationship between urban or rural background and health attitudes of newly diagnosed oncology patients, attending one oncology unit in north Queensland, during a 5 month period. This study is a forerunner to a planned larger project to explore the research question: do oncology patients from rural backgrounds differ in their health attitudes and hope levels compared with those from urban backgrounds? The aim of this study was to determine the utility of the selected validated instruments, newly diagnosed patients’ willingness and ability to complete the composite survey instrument, and to identify likely issues for inclusion and/or greater focus in the larger project. As pilot studies are also used to develop or refine research questions and hypotheses, this article also considers some research questions for the planned large scale study. Methods: Self-administered questionnaire survey of 47 patients newly referred to the Medical Oncology Department in The Townsville Cancer Centre. Scales used were: the EORTC QLQ-C30 to assess symptom burden and quality of life; the Duke UNS Functional Social Support Questionnaire to assess social support; the Herth Hope Index to assess hope; and the Multi-Dimensional Health Locus of Control to assess health beliefs. Data were collated and transformed according to the various scales’ scoring manuals. Rurality was ascertained using the RRMA classification and patient self-assessment. Uni-variate analyses were conducted as small numbers precluded multi-variate analysis. Non-parametric Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used where data were skewed, or categorical. Monte-Carlo estimations of p-values were generated. Results: In all, 28 of 47 patients classified as rural, 27 were suitable for curative treatment, and 31 were male. Median age was 56 years. Some respondents (17%) identified as ‘rural’, although they had an urban residence, and vice versa. Health attitude scores were not affected by global health scores or by intent of treatment (palliative/curative). Males scored significantly higher for belief in chance. Rural patients scored significantly higher for internal belief and belief in chance. No statistically significant differences were evident between rural/urban patients by gender, nor social support scores. Hope levels were generally high with no significant difference between urban and rural patients, regardless of treatment intent. Discussion: The study does reveal differences in health attitudes between urban and rural populations; however, there are several confounding factors which may contribute to this, especially gender. In this study women were under-represented. People with fatalistic beliefs (high belief in chance) tend to have poor initiative in health matters which may cause delay in seeking treatment, or poor compliance with treatment. Analysis is limited by small numbers of patients. This study is a pilot to a larger project to investigate health attitudes and decisions by oncology patients in northern Queensland. The questionnaire was well received by patients, but the need for a dedicated recruitment person was evident. There is a need to determine how patients identify in terms of rurality over and above their actual place of residence.

Item ID: 3859
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1445-6354
Keywords: cancer; carcinogenesis; health attitudes; rural; urban
Additional Information:

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Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2009 05:48
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1112 Oncology and Carcinogenesis > 111299 Oncology and Carcinogenesis not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9201 Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions) > 920102 Cancer and Related Disorders @ 34%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920401 Behaviour and Health @ 33%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920413 Social Structure and Health @ 33%
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