Illness representations of cancer among healthy residents of Kolkata, India

Lala Tanmoy Das, Christina D. Wagner, Silvia M. Bigatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Cancer illness representations and screening history among residents of Kolkata, India, were investigated along with socio-demographic characteristics in an effort to understand possible motivations for health behavior. A total of 106 participants were recruited from community locations in Kolkata, India and completed surveys including demographics, the illness perception questionnaire-revised (IPQ-R), and previous experience with cancer and screening practices. Participants were 51.5% college educated, 57% female, 51.5% full-time employed with average age of 32.7 years (R: 18-60 years). Descriptive statistics were generated for the subscales of the IPQ-R, cancer-screening practices and cancer experience. Correlation analyses were conducted to investigate associations between cancer representations and socio-demographic variables. Univariate ANOVAs were calculated to determine gender differences in IPQ-R subscales and differences between participants who knew someone diagnosed with cancer versus those who did not. While 76% of participants knew someone with cancer, only 5% of the sample engaged in cancer screening. Participants perceived cancer as a serious illness with negative emotional valence. Younger age (r(100)=-.36, p < 0.001) and male gender (F(1, 98)=5.22, p=0.01, η2=0.05) were associated with better illness coherence. Males also reported greater personal control (F(1, 98)=5.34, p=0.02, η2=0.05) were associated with better illness coherence. Low screening rates precluded analyses of the relationship between illness representations and cancer screening. Cancer was viewed as a threatening and uncontrollable disease among this sample of educated, middle class Kolkata residents. This view may act as a barrier to seeking cancer screening. Public awareness campaigns aimed at improving understanding of the causes, symptoms and consequences of cancer might reduce misunderstandings and fear, especially among women and older populations, who report less comprehension of cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-852
Number of pages8
JournalAsian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Cancer awareness
  • Cancer screening
  • Illness representations
  • Kolkata residents
  • Risk
  • Tobacco habits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Cancer Research

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