Half of Patients Skipped Out on Bowel Cancer Screenings


People living in poorer areas less likely to receive screening.

People living in poorer areas less likely to receive screening.

Half of the patients invited to a new bowel cancer screening test did not partake in the appointments, according to findings published in the Journal of Medicinal Screening.

Researchers from the University College London invited more than 21,000 adults to schedule a new bowel cancer screening test to examine uptake in the first six pilot centers of the English Bowel Scope Screening (BSS) program which was introduced in early 2013.

The program is targeted at adults with a mean age of 55 years for a one time Flexible Sigmoidoscopy — a flexible tube with a tiny camera operated by a specially trained nurse or doctor – used to detect and remove pre-cancerous polys. The Flexible Sigmoidoscopy can also detect cancer in the early stages, before symptoms progress and before the cancer is even more difficult to treat.

The investigators incorporated a variety of factors into their analysis, including gender, socioeconomic deprivation, area based ethnic diversity, screening center, and appointment time (daytime vs. off hours on the evening or weekends).

Less than half (43.1%) of the people invited to the screening test participated. In the most diverse area, 39% of people had the test compared to 45% in the least ethnically diverse service center. Men were more likely than women to take part in the test, at rates of 45 and 42%, respectively.

“We were encouraged by the level of uptake in the pilot areas for a fairly new and invasive test, and we were surprised that more men were willing to have the test than women,” study author Christian von Wagner said in a press release. “What we found worrying was that people living in poorer areas seem less likely to take advantage of this screening.”

The researchers believe embarrassment, problems taking time off work, and scheduling conflicts may all contribute to people not taking part in the program, the authors said.

The screening program is slated to fully roll out by 2018, and will work in tandem with the current bowel screening method (a do-it-yourself kit sent to people between 60 to 74 years old every two years).

“You don’t need to have symptoms for this test to be effective, but people can choose whether or not to have it and it’s important that they receive clear information so they can decide what’s right for them,” concluded Julie Sharp, head of health and patient information at Cancer Research UK — the group that funded the study. “Research like this can identify practical barriers that stop people taking up the test when they would like to have it.”

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