Colorectal cancer screening using the faecal occult blood test (FOBt): a survey of GP attitudes and practices in the UK

BMC Fam Pract. 2010 Mar 9;11:20. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-11-20.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the UK. Five-year survival rates are less than 50%, largely because of late diagnosis. Screening using faecal occult blood tests (FOBt) can detect bowel cancer at an earlier stage than symptomatic presentation, and has the potential to significantly decrease colorectal cancer mortality. However, uptake of screening is currently low, despite the introduction of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (NHSBCSP), and it has been suggested that GP recommendations of screening can improve patient compliance. GP recommendation of CRC screening is argued to be affected by attitudes towards it, along with perceptions of its efficacy.

Methods: This paper presents the findings of a cross-sectional postal survey of GPs in the UK which aimed to investigate GPs' attitudes in relation to colorectal cancer screening and the use of FOBt in routine practice. An 'attitude' score was calculated, and binary logistic regression used to evaluate the association of socio-demographic and general practice attributes with attitudes towards CRC screening and FOBt.

Results: Of 3,191 GPs surveyed, 960 returned usable responses (response rate 30.7%). Positive attitudes were associated with personal experience of CRC screening and Asian or Asian British ethnicity. GPs from practices located in more deprived locations were also more likely to have positive attitudes towards FOBt and its recommendation to patients.

Conclusions: The success of population-based screening for CRC will largely be determined by GP attitudes and support, particularly with regard to FOBt. Previous research has implied that South Asian GPs are more likely to have negative attitudes towards FOBt screening, however, our research suggests that this is not a group requiring targeted interventions to increase their support for the NHSBCSP. Of the available CRC screening tests, GPs perceived FOBt to be the most appropriate for population-based screening.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel* / ethnology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Occult Blood*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Class
  • United Kingdom