Co-design and evaluation of a digital serious game to promote public awareness about pancreatic cancer

Tara Anderson, Gillian Prue, Glenn McDowell, Patrick Stark, Christine Brown Wilson, Lisa Graham Wisener, Helen Kerr , Gemma Caughers, Katherine Rogers, Lana Cook, Stephanie Craig, Abdulelah Alanazi, Gary Mitchell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Pancreatic cancer, ranking seventh in global cancer-related deaths, poses a significant public health challenge with increasing incidence and mortality. Most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, resulting in low survival rates. Early diagnosis significantly impacts prognosis, making symptom awareness crucial. Symptoms are often subtle, leading to delayed help-seeking behaviour. Patients and their carers prioritise increased public awareness, indicating a need for innovative approaches to promote awareness of the disease.

This study employed a quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test design to assess the relationship between a serious game and pancreatic cancer awareness. Members of the public (N = 727) were recruited internationally, via social media and with signposting by relevant organisations. Participants completed measures of symptom awareness and help-seeking intentions before and after playing the game. The serious game, co-designed with experts by lived experience, patient advocates and healthcare professionals, presented participants with a human anatomy diagram, with each section linked to a question about pancreatic cancer.

The serious game demonstrated a statistically significant improvement on pancreatic cancer awareness based on matched paired t-tests. Due to missing data, paired comparisons were only possible for 489 cases. Symptom awareness scores exhibited a statistically significant increase from pre-test to post-test, with a large effect size (p < 0.001, d = 1.43). Help-seeking intentions also markedly improved, showing a significant increase from pre-test to post-test, with a large effect size (p < 0.001, d = 1.10). Independent-samples t-tests were also conducted to determine if there were any group differences on pre- to post-test changes based on age, gender, and previous knowledge and/or experience of pancreatic cancer. Participants overwhelmingly endorsed the game’s usability and educational value, suggesting its potential as an effective tool for enhancing public awareness and proactive health-seeking behaviour.

This study is the first to explore a serious game’s utility in pancreatic cancer awareness. Results suggest that such interventions can effectively increase public awareness and influence help-seeking intentions. The co-design process ensured content relevance, and participant satisfaction was high. Findings highlight the game’s potential as an accessible and convenient tool for diverse populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number570
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2024


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