BACKGROUND: Identifying what prompts or hinders women's help-seeking behaviour is essential to ensure timely diagnosis and management of gynaecological cancers.
AIM: To understand the factors that influence the help- seeking behaviour of women diagnosed with gynaecological cancer.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Systematic review and narrative synthesis of studies from high-income settings worldwide.
METHOD: Five databases were searched for studies, of any design, that presented factors related to the help-seeking behaviour of women diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer. Data from the articles were extracted and presented using narrative synthesis, which was both inductive and deductive. The COM-B (capability, opportunity, motivation, behaviour) model of behaviour change was used as a framework.
RESULTS: In total, 21 studies were included in the review. Inductive synthesis presented three main themes of factors related to the help-seeking behaviour of women diagnosed with gynaecological cancer: patient factors, such as knowledge of symptoms; emotional factors, including previous healthcare experience, embarrassment, and trust; and practical factors, including time and resources. Deductive synthesis demonstrated that capability (namely, symptom knowledge), opportunity (having the required time and overcoming the cultural taboos surrounding gynaecological symptoms), and motivation (believing that seeking help is beneficial) are all required to initiate help-seeking behaviour.
CONCLUSION: Although it is a journey of defined steps, the help- seeking behaviour of women with symptoms diagnosed with gynaecological cancer is influenced by personal and societal factors. Interventions to improve help seeking will need to address the specific identified factors, as well as capability, opportunity, and motivation.
Bibliographical notePauline Williams completed this work while undertaking an NHS Research Scotland career researcher fellowship that supported salary costs.
- delays in care
- early detection of cancer
- general practice
- gynaecological cancer
- help-seeking behaviour
- systematic review