Engaging women's interest in colorectal cancer screening: a public health strategy

J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000 May;9(4):363-71. doi: 10.1089/15246090050020673.


Screening rates for colorectal cancer are unacceptably low. New guidelines, public education campaigns, and expanded coverage of screening costs by healthcare insurance are expected to increase screening rates, but interventions targeting women may accelerate this change. Most American women already participate in regular cancer screening, in the form of Papanicolaou (Pap) tests and mammography, so they may be receptive to tailored messages about the need to add regular colorectal cancer screening to their preventive health regimen. In addition, their role in promoting the health of family members may position women to influence screening behavior in family and friends. Women may be particularly valuable change agents in populations where screening rates are traditionally low, such as medically underserved populations, the elderly or low socioeconomic status groups with competing health priorities, and populations with cultural values or practices inconsistent with the adoption of a new screening behavior. To serve as agents of change in their family and social networks, women must understand that colorectal cancer is not solely a man's disease and that the benefits of colorectal screening are similar to those of Pap testing and mammography. Colorectal cancer screening should also be promoted within a framework of a lifelong strategy for health maintenance for both men and women. The message to women should emphasize the value of colorectal cancer screening rather than the disagreement among experts over preferred screening strategies and should emphasize the value of shared decision making between the patient and her healthcare provider.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • National Health Programs
  • Public Health
  • United States
  • Women's Health