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Review: delays in help seeking for cancer symptoms related to recognition and interpretation of symptoms and fear of consultation and were affected by gender and sanctioning of help seeking

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Q What are patients’ experiences of recognising symptoms of cancer and seeking help?


Medline, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, PubMed, BIDS, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, PsycINFO, Science Citation Index, and Social Sciences Citation Index; hand searches of key journals; and reference lists of identified studies.


English language papers published in peer reviewed journals from 1985 to July 2004 that reported the findings of qualitative research (qualitative data collection and text based or interpretive analysis) on the help seeking experiences of adult patients with cancer, from first onset of symptoms to first medical consultation. Exclusion criteria were studies of screening services and public knowledge of cancer symptoms. Meta-ethnography was used to synthesise the research. 2 researchers systematically read the papers and recorded key concepts and contextual details. Concepts were explored by reciprocal translation (identification of convergent or divergent cases across studies). Second order constructs (interpretations by the authors of the individual studies) …

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  • For correspondence: Dr L K Smith, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK. lks1{at}

  • Source of funding: no external funding.