Oral Cancer Awareness of a Segment of Sabah’s Rural Population aged 40 years and above

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Oral Cancer Awareness of a Segment of Sabah’s Rural Population aged 40 years and above

Jeremy Lee Ju Kuan, Norma Abd Jalil: Oral Cancer Awareness of a Segment of Sabah’s Rural Population aged 40 years and above. Mal. J. Oral Maxillofac. Surg. 2012; 10: 1–8.

Abstract: Objective: Delay in treatment of oral cancer could be attributed to a general lack of knowledge or awareness in the population. This lack of awareness is even more pronounced among the rural or lower socioeconomic community, which comprises about 60% of the Sabah population. The aim of the study was to determine the level of awareness within this segment of the Sabah population.

Materials and methods: Questionnaire forms were collected from 164 subjects aged 40 years and above seeking dental treatment at the main dental clinic of 4 major rural centres (Kudat, Kota Marudu, Kota Belud and Keningau) on the west coast of Sabah. The form was divided into a preceding sociodemographic section and a focused question section pertaining to awareness of risk factors, complications, prevention and signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Results obtained were analysed descriptively.

Results and Discussion: There was no variation in gender with 82 male and 82 female respondents. 70.1% (115 out of 164 respondents) claimed to have previously heard of oral cancer; with an overwhelming 98.2% of them (113 out of 115 respondents) agreed that if left untreated, oral cancer can cause death. There was no significant difference between genders in this respect. Overall, there was a trend for those in the younger age groups and with higher education levels to not only be aware of oral cancer but also the risk factors associated. All 3 pictures shown were successfully identified by more than 75% of all respondents.

Among the centres, Kota Marudu appears to have the lowest awareness about oral cancer with only 52.1% awareness. The highest was Keningau with full awareness among their respondents. This ties in with the fact that Kota Marudu is fairly rural and has the highest proportion of uneducated respondents, whereas Keningau is mostly suburban in nature with a high number of educated respondents.

The majority of the respondents (88.7%) identified smoking as a risk factor, with only 70.4% agreeing that consumption of alcohol is a risk factor. However, only 70.4% and 54.3% of respondents agreed that old age and areca nut chewers respectively are at risk for getting oral cancer.

Conclusion: This study showed that there is a fairly high level of awareness of oral cancer, its risk factors, prevention and appearance in this particular population group. However, there still exist places such as Kudat and Kota Marudu, which are rural areas with populations having low or no education that showed alarming levels of ignorance to the awareness and prevention of this condition. Although much effort has been spent to spread awareness through both governmental and non-governmental avenues, the effectiveness of these measures have been found wanting possibly to poor focus on at- risk groups. Studies like this can assist in identifying these groups so as to target future preventive or screening programmes to relevant segments of the population