Background: Screening flexible sigmoidoscopy is an underused cancer prevention procedure. Physicians often cite patient discomfort as a reason for not requesting sigmoidoscopy, but patient experiences and attitudes toward sigmoidoscopy have not been well studied.
Objective: To measure patient satisfaction and the determinants of satisfaction with screening sigmoidoscopy.
Methods: An instrument to assess satisfaction with screening sigmoidoscopy was developed. Responses were evaluated with a factor analysis, tested for reproducibility and internal consistency, and validated against an external standard.
Results: A total of 1221 patients (666 men and 555 women; mean age, 61.8 years) were surveyed after sigmoidoscopy. Examinations were performed by a nurse practitioner (n = 668), internist (n = 344), or gastrointestinal specialist (n= 184). More than 93% of the participants strongly agreed or agreed they would be willing to undergo another examination, and 74.9% would strongly recommend the procedure to their friends. Regarding pain and discomfort, 76.2% strongly agreed or agreed that the examination did not cause a lot of pain, 78.1% stated that it did not cause a lot of discomfort, and 68.5% thought that it was more comfortable than they expected. Fifteen percent to 25% of the patients indicated they had a lot of pain, great discomfort, or more discomfort than expected. Women were more likely to have significant pain or discomfort than men (adjusted odds ratio, 2.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.9-4.3; P<.001).
Conclusions: Approximately 70% of individuals who undergo screening sigmoidoscopy are satisfied and find the procedure more comfortable than expected, whereas only 15% to 25% find the procedure unpleasant. Physicians should not project discomfort onto patients as a reason for not requesting screening sigmoidoscopy.