The Awareness Research Programmme

The Health Inequalities team have been working on an Awareness Research Programme which intends to test a range of engagement methods particularly targeting men at risk of disproportionate prostate cancer outcomes.

One of these pilot research projects was recently delivered in Hartlepool and looked to develop a simple risk awareness tool for men over 50 from lower socioeconomic groups to:

  • Help them understand their individual risk of developing prostate cancer
  • Help them understand what further action might be necessary, if any
  • See whether this information led to a behaviour change or any further action from the men.

It was hoped this tool would make it as easy as possible for men to understand if they were at higher risk or not and whether they should be taking further action. It was also hoped the pilot would increase awareness in lower socioeconomic areas and encourage men to take appropriate action if they discovered they were at an increased risk of prostate cancer.

The project

We developed a risk tool to help men easily understand their risk of developing prostate cancer. This tool included a risk factor card, a scratch card and information about what to expect when talking to a GP or a nurse. We wanted to test this new tool with men in the North East of England, due to high levels of deprivation and poor health data in the region. The chosen area for the pilot was Hartlepool where the life expectancy of men is 11.3 years lower in the most deprived areas, and mortality rates in the under 75’s from cancer is significantly worse than the England average.

For those who were at risk, we wanted to test whether this tool encouraged them to be more proactive about taking action for example by speaking to one of our Specialist Nurses or going to see their GP. So that we could isolate whether the risk tool did in fact make a difference we used our existing Know your prostate quick guide as a control.

Delivery

Through calling on our volunteers and health professional contacts in the area we facilitated a number of sessions in workplaces, health groups and exercise classes. In total about 500 risk tools and 500 Know your prostate quick guides were distributed during the pilot.

Two evaluation forms were created; one for the risk tool and the other for the know your prostate quick guide, to find out how useful men found the information. Freepost envelopes were also provided to make this much easier for the men and organisations taking part. We also wanted to speak to men after the intervention, to find out if they did indeed take any necessary action and a £10 voucher incentive for all men providing their contact details and taking part in a telephone interview was offered so as to increase uptake.

Evaluation

A total of 130 men returned the evaluation forms, 35% (46) of these had received the quick guide and 65% (84) had received the risk tool.

The results of these evaluations and of the telephone interviews are currently being analysed to determine the effectiveness of the risk tool intervention, however initial findings have revealed that:

  • The majority of men know they should visit the GP if they are concerned about prostate cancer issues, however there was a lower level of awareness of our Specialist Nurse service.
  • Men generally need symptoms to show before they visit the GP and are not seeing the urgency even when they have other risk factors such as being over 50, or having a family history.
  • Many men anticipate barriers to visiting their GP, including difficulties in getting an appointment and perceptions of wasting health professionals’ time.
  • Knowledge gaps exist around what tests are required to diagnose prostate cancer and the length of time to confirm diagnosis.

We also found men acknowledged that they are less proactive over health issues, and less forthcoming when talking about health issues and need to be guided to take action.

It is likely that the findings will show that different tools are preferred for different settings, reinforcing that there is no one solution, but a need for diverse resources and approaches for different audiences.

Conclusions

We know that we need to address several issues in order to encourage men who are at risk to take action, the most prominent of which is the tendency for men to wait for symptoms to show before visiting their GPs.

If you would like to read the full report when it is available or if you’d like further information about this pilot please contact our Health Inequalities Team at servicedevelopment@prostatecanceruk.org