Background: Participation in screening programs for malignant disease may have negative psychologic health effects that could outweigh the beneficial effects of the screening itself. The present study was designed to investigate the psychologic effect of attending a screening program for detection and removal of colorectal adenomas, which are precursors to colorectal cancer.
Method: In 1983 a prospective. controlled screening study using flexible sigmoidoscopy to detect adenomas was started in Telemark County, Norway. Four hundred individuals were enrolled as a screening group and 399 as a control group. In 1996 survivors in both groups were invited to have a colonoscopic screening examination for detection and removal of polyps. Four hundred and fifty-one individuals (71%) attended; their mean age was 67.2 years (range, 63-72 years), and 48% were women. Fourteen days and 3 and 17 months after the examination the attendees received by mail a questionnaire composed of Goldberg's General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). The questionnaire was also mailed to an age- and sex-matched group not enrolled in the endoscopic screening study. Four hundred and nine (95%), 395 (92%), and 389 (91%), respectively, returned the questionnaire. Of the controls 314 (70%) returned filled-in questionnaires.
Results: The scores for both GHQ-28 and HADS were lower, indicating a lower level of psychiatric morbidity among those attending the examination in 1996 than among the controls. There was a trend towards higher scores with increasing time after the examination in the screened group.
Conclusion: During the first 17 months after screening the attendees, as a group, did not appear to have developed untoward psychologic effects as judged by HADS and GHQ questionnaires.