The role of web-based information in help-seeking in those worried about lung cancer

  • Julia Mueller

Student thesis: Phd


Background. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Low survival rates have been attributed to delays to diagnosis, and some patients report having symptoms for several months before presenting to health services. Strategies are needed to encourage timely help-seeking. The Web is increasingly used as a health information source. Aim. The aim of this thesis is to explore whether the Web plays a role in help-seeking behaviour of people with lung cancer prior to diagnosis, and how the Web can be utilised to encourage earlier presentation to health services for symptomatic people. Systematic review. To begin, I carried out a systematic review of the literature (N=34), which highlighted a scarcity of research on Web use for symptom appraisal among cancer populations. Mixed-methods study. I conducted a survey with recently diagnosed (6 months or less) lung cancer patients (N=113). Based on survey responses, I purposively selected a sub-sample of patients and their family/friends ("proxies") for semi-structured interviews (N=33). In the survey, 20.4% of participants reported they or proxies had researched their condition online before the diagnosis. Interview results suggest perceived impacts of online information on symptom appraisal, forming the decision to seek help, and on interactions with healthcare professionals. Intervention development and evaluation. Based on my findings, I developed a Web-based intervention. The intervention provides tailored information about lung cancer, and uses components based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour ("TPB-components") to encourage earlier help-seeking. This intervention was tested in an online feasibility study (N=130), and subsequently in an online randomised controlled trial (N=212) with a factorial design to test main and interaction effects of tailoring and TPB-components. The feasibility study and first trial helped identify methodological issues which were addressed in a second trial with a mixed factorial design. This trial (N=253) indicated that the self-reported likelihood of visiting a doctor increased significantly by 11.8% from before to after viewing study information (p
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Jay (Supervisor), Simon Harper (Supervisor) & Christopher Todd (Supervisor)


  • Theory of Planned Behaviour
  • tailored intervention
  • Web
  • online health information
  • help-seeking
  • health information seeking
  • symptom appraisal
  • lung cancer

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