Developing and testing a web‐based intervention to encourage early help‐seeking in people with symptoms associated with lung cancer

Julia Mueller, Alan Davies, Caroline Jay, Simon Harper, Fiona Blackhall, Yvonne Summers, Amelie Harle (Collaborator), Christopher Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To detail the development method used to produce an online, tailored, theory‐based, user‐centred intervention to encourage help‐seeking for potential lung cancer symptoms.

Intervention development was structured around the person‐based approach. The feasibility study involved a randomized controlled trial design.

Intervention development drew on qualitative inquiries, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), and identifying concrete mechanisms of change to implement in the intervention (Behaviour Change Techniques). The final intervention involved two key features: (1) tailoring and (2) ‘TPB components’ to target beliefs about help‐seeking. In an online feasibility study, we recruited people reporting potential lung cancer symptoms using mailing lists, social media, websites, and Google AdWords. Participants were randomized to the intervention, a tailored comparison group (CG) without TPB‐components, an untailored CG with TPB components, or a CG with neither. Following treatment, participants clicked a button to indicate whether they wished to make an appointment and completed a TPB questionnaire.

A total of 130 participants reporting relevant symptoms were recruited (24% of website visitors). Participants in the intervention group reported higher intention to seek help than those who received tailored information without TPB components (p = .03). User comments indicate more support is needed for people who sought help for symptoms, but felt dismissed.

The potential for differential dropout in online randomized trials requires careful consideration. Future help‐seeking interventions should provide support for those who have previously felt dismissed by health professionals. The feasibility study provides some evidence that our ‘TPB components’ were effective, but validation in a powered trial is necessary.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Early online date12 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2018


  • behaviour change techniques
  • digital health
  • health information seeking
  • help‐seeking behaviour
  • lung cancer
  • online health information
  • tailoring
  • theory of planned behaviour
  • web‐based intervention


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