Perceptions of Cancer

Jan M. Gutteling, Erwin R. Seydel, Oene Wiegman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Because the fear of cancer and ignorance about it have often been linked with the failure of people to engage in such preventive behavior as participation in cancer detection activities, the authors undertook a survey to test the relationship of a number of factors that they thought were associated with perceptions about cancer. Specifically, they conducted a pilot study to measure anxiety about cancer, prior experience with cancer, knowledge of cancer, attitudes toward health, and intentions to engage in preventive behavior in 479 Dutch women who, because of their age, had been invited to participate in mass screenings to detect cervical cancer. The Dutch version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory was used to validate the fear-of-cancer measure. The study found that women with a low level of fear of cancer knew more about the disease, had greater intentions to behave preventively and a lesser estimation of their chance of getting the disease, and felt that cancer was less threatening than did those with higher levels of anxiety. In addition, many prior experiences with cancer were related to a greater knowledge of the disease and the women's higher estimation of their chance of getting it, and a lower level of education was equated with less knowledge of cancer, greater feelings of the threat of cancer, and a higher level of anxiety. The authors conclude that health educators may have a more difficult time reaching persons who have a low educational level and a high level of anxiety about cancer because these two factors seem to inhibit the acceptance of information about health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
JournalJournal of psychosocial oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1987


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