The relative importance of patient-reported barriers to colorectal cancer screening

Am J Prev Med. 2010 May;38(5):499-507. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.01.020. Epub 2010 Mar 28.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates are suboptimal. The most important barriers identified by patients are poorly understood. A comprehensive assessment of barriers to all recommended modalities is needed.

Methods: In 2007, a questionnaire was mailed to 6100 patients, aged 50-75 years, from 12 family medicine practices in the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network. People aged 65-75 years and African Americans were oversampled. Patients were asked to rate 19-21 barriers to each of four recommended tests. In 2008, responses were coded on a 5-point scale; higher scores reflected stronger barrier endorsement.

Results: The response rate was 55% (n=3357). Approximately 40% of respondents were aged >/=65 years, 30% were African-American, and 73% were adherent to screening. A clinician's failure to suggest screening and not knowing testing was necessary received the highest mean scores as barriers. Financial concerns and misconceptions were also cited. Barrier scores differed depending on whether respondents were never screened, overdue for screening, or adherent to guidelines. The top five barriers for each modality included test-specific barriers (e.g., handling stool, bowel preparation), which often outranked generic barriers to screening. Not knowing testing was necessary was a top barrier for all tests but colonoscopy.

Conclusions: Although physician advice and awareness of the need for screening are important, barriers to screening are not homogenous across tests, and test-specific barriers warrant consideration in designing strategies to improve screening rates. Barrier scores differ by screening status, highlighting the need to address prior screening experience. Evidence that patients are more familiar with colonoscopy than with other modalities suggests an opportunity to improve screening rates by educating patients about alternative tests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Awareness
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Virginia