Barriers to home bowel cancer screening

Research Snapshots of Health Systems and Behavioural Research

What is known?

Bowel cancer screening saves lives. When detected early, before noticeable symptoms start to show, bowel cancer can be successfully treated over 90% of the time. For this reason, the Australian government distributes home bowel cancer screening kits to everyone between the ages of 50 – 74 years old every two years. Unfortunately, almost 6 in 10 people do not complete and return their kit, increasing their risk of developing life threatening advanced-stage bowel cancer. In order to address poor participation rates, reliable ways to identify and measure barriers to home bowel cancer screening need to be developed.

What is new?

Through this research, we were able to identify the most common barriers that prevent people from completing and returning mail-out home bowel cancer screening kits. These included already having been screened through another method, forgetting about the screening kit, failing to make a plan to use the kit and having concerns about hygiene. The research also provided a useful tool for measuring the degree to which recipients of home bowel cancer screening kits experience four key barriers to screening, including disgust, avoidance, lack of autonomy, and physical difficulties.

What does this mean?

This newly developed measurement tool can be used in future research to better understand barriers to screening and to improve screening participation. The findings of this study suggest that it is important to encourage people to make specific plans to use their screening kit and to ensure that screening kits are designed for clean and easy stool collection and storage.

Contact: Belinda Goodwin

Goodwin BC, Myers L, Ireland MJ, March S, Ralph N, Dunn J, Chambers S, Aitken J. Barriers to Home Bowel Cancer Screening. Psycho-Oncology. 2021. doi: 10.1002/pon.5741.

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