Colorectal and stomach cancers are the top ranking cancers in Oman. Most of the patients are diagnosed at advanced disease stages. The aim of this study is to explore the knowledge of risk factors, symptoms and the time needed to seek medical care for stomach cancer and colorectal cancer (CRC) among Omani participants attending 28 local health centres (LHCs) in the governorate of Muscat, the capital city of Oman. The Bowel Cancer/CRC Awareness Measure (CAM) questionnaire (translated into Arabic) was used to collect data from Omani adult participants (aged 18 years and above) who attended the LHCs during the study period. There was a total of 405 participants in the study out of the 500 who were invited (response rate = 81%). The most recognised risk factors were excessive drinking of alcohol (73.1%) and smoking (70.6%); the least recognised were doing less exercise (37.3%), eating food which was high in salt (26.8%) and a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus (24.9%). Multinomial logistic regression showed that young participants recognised more risk factors than older participants; highly educated participants recognised more risk factors than the less-educated and married participants recognised more risk factors than single participants. Participants with a high level of education were more likely to identify signs and symptoms of stomach cancer and CRC than less-educated participants. Multinomial logistic regression showed women were more likely than men to report barriers to seeking medical help (fear, difficulty in arranging transport, worried what the doctor might find). Also, participants with less education were more likely to report barriers than the highly educated (worried about wasting the doctor’s time, difficulty in arranging transport, did not feel confident talking about symptoms, embarrassed, scared, worried what doctor might find). The majority of participants (93.6%) were not aware of any CRC screening programme or had undergone any screening (98.3) for CRC. Only 52.6% of participants would have a colonoscopy if the doctors advised; the main reasons for refusal were embarrassment (40.0%), lack of trust in the doctors (33.3%) and religious or culture beliefs (21.3%). Around 39% of participants would prefer to have their colonoscopy examination abroad. There is an urgent need to increase the public’s awareness of stomach cancer and CRC in Oman, particularly with evidence emerging of an increase in the incidence. School curriculums could include sessions on cancer education and the information be reiterated to students periodically. A strategy to establish a CRC screening programme in Oman might be paramount as the incidence of CRC increased.
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