Objectives: The National Health Service has recently begun the introduction of a Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP), offering biennial screening to men and women aged 60-69 years. This study aimed to explore public perceptions regarding the communication of information designed to facilitate informed choice in relation to this new screening programme.
Methods: Fourteen single sex focus groups were conducted in England with 86 individuals aged 60-69 years. Focus groups were conducted either with individuals who had participated in the pilot phase of the BCSP, or with members of the public living outside the pilot areas.
Results: The majority of participants expressed positive attitudes towards bowel cancer screening, identifying items highlighting the benefits of the programme as important for others to know. Whilst some believed it was appropriate for information regarding the potentially negative aspects of the programme to be communicated at the outset, others expressed concerns about the generation of anxiety and potential for decreased participation. A number of participants questioned the concept of informed choice, arguing that once in place, a screening programme should be vigorously promoted.
Conclusions: There is some variation in the type of information favoured by those eligible for bowel cancer screening. This may present challenges for the provision of information aiming to facilitate informed choice in the BCSP. Flexible approaches to information provision that recognize the perceptions of patients may be required.