A new report has suggested that comic books may help in spreading awareness about testicular cancer and its symptoms amongst young men and their partners.
David Brame, comic book artist and his research team found that illustrated resources on testicular cancer were lacking. To fill the information gap, the researchers explored comic books as a vehicle to reach out to this young group.
The genre's target audience - men aged 18 to 39 - was a good fit. Comic books are already used to discuss other conditions, including HIV, hepatitis B, asthma, leukemia and swine flu.
The researchers conducted a literature review and analysed earlier interviews from 40 testicular cancer patients at Princess Margaret Hospital.
"Existing pamphlets about testicular cancer are usually written by healthcare providers, which means they may contain jargon that isn't readily understood by the average person," Brame explained.
"Most pamphlets circulated at hospitals are also directed at patients, and do not reach the broader population," he said.
Brame is the lead author of the study, Ain't Nothing Comic About It! Educating Young Men about Testicular Cancer: A Resource Development Project.
In the end, two comic books were developed. The first, A Courageous Journey, follows a young man through diagnosis and treatment. It also addresses the many social, economic and psychological issues that patients may face along the way.
The second comic book , Testicular Cancer: Screening and Diagnosis, describes the symptoms, how to perform a self-examination and the importance of seeking prompt medical treatment if worrisome changes are noticed.
Both comic books were field-tested with healthcare providers, high school students, and testicular cancer patients and their families.
The researchers found that preliminary feedback from the students was positive. While survey responses indicated that students' knowledge of testicular cancer and self-examinations increased considerably after reading the comic books, neither resource significantly impacted whether they would or would not self-screen in the future.
This feedback demonstrates the challenges that health professionals experience in connecting with and changing the behaviors of 15- to 25-year-old males, said Brame.
"We have to find ways to give educational materials a mainstream look, rather than using familiar hospital templates. This will increase audience receptivity to the messages. And with more literacy and education, a disease is less likely to run unchecked," he added.