Poverty, Poor Health Might Influence Colorectal Cancer Screening

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Patients who believe in the value of colorectal cancer screenings and fear cancer often say they would undergo preventive testing, but their intentions do not necessarily translate into action, according to a new study.

“It’s well known that people don’t always do what they say they’re going to do,” said Emily Power, lead author. “Their attitudes and beliefs play an important role, but factors such as socioeconomic deprivation and poor health may also act as barriers and make the intention to attend screening less likely.”

Power is a research associate in the Health Behaviour Research Center at University College London. The study appears in the latest issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

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In the survey of 2,969 Scottish adults, ages 55 to 64, invited to receive colorectal cancer screenings, only 61 percent of people who said they intended to go for screening actually attended their appointment.

Power and colleagues found that respondents who (1) expressed less fatalistic beliefs and fears about colorectal cancer, (2) thought that screening would provide ‘peace of mind’ and (3) anticipated regret if they did not attend the screening were more likely to respond that they intended to go. Yet these factors seemed to play a less important role in predicting actual attendance at screening.

When the researchers looked at non-attendees as a group among those who had expressed the intention to attend screening, they found these people experienced more socioeconomic deprivation, poor general health and a higher percentage of doctor visits, factors that might have interfered with their ability to attend the cancer screening, Power said.

Mira Katz is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health at The Ohio State University. She had no affiliation with the study.

“In my experience, the one critical factor that impacts an average-risk individual’s decision to seek colorectal cancer screening is a health care provider’s recommendation,” Katz said. “This recommendation should include a discussion about the potential benefits, harms and alternatives to completing the various colorectal cancer screening tests.”

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