Objective: To find out reasons for non-attendance and to study subgroup differences of the non-attenders in an organized mammography screening program.
Design: Prospective for background and psychosocial factors, retrospective for reasons of non-attendance.
Setting: Finnish screening based on personal first round invitations, with 89% attendance rate.
Participants: Four hundred thirty six women with both pre-screening response to socioeconomic and psychosocial measures, and post-screening response reporting reasons of non-attendance.
Main results: Most common single reason for non-attendance was previous recent mammogram (53%), but also reasons related to practical obstacles, worry and fear, knowledge and attitudes, and organization of screening were mentioned. Two distinct groups of non-attenders were found based on the reasons for non-attendance. Those who did not attend because a mammogram taken elsewhere (ELSE, n = 233) were urban, well-to-do women, who took care of their health by own initiation and felt more susceptible to breast cancer, and also expected mammogram to be painful. Other (real) non-attenders (REAL, n = 155) were less compliant with health recommendations and services, more socially isolated, depressed and anxious than ELSE. Level of depression among REAL was clearly higher (10.80) than the mean value (7.91, SD = 7.28) of the age group, and was also slightly above the cut-off score of 10 indicating mild or moderate depression. Trait anxiety was also markedly higher (40.18) than that of the same age group (37.76, SD = 8.95).
Conclusions: Further research should clarify determinants and consequences of depression and anxiety among real non-attenders. Knowledge gaps and attitudinal barriers among non-attenders require more targeted campaigns.