Psychological distress following fecal occult blood test in colorectal cancer screening--a population-based study

Scand J Gastroenterol. 2010 Oct;45(10):1211-6. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2010.485355.


Objective: To evaluate the possible psychological side-effect of participating in a colorectal cancer (CRC)-screening program.

Materials and methods: Six hundred participants in a Danish CRC screening feasibility study were invited to complete a short version of the SCL92 (symptom check list) questionnaire relating to the domains: anxiety, depression and somatization following information on the result of their fecal occult blood test. The questionnaire was repeated after 3 and 12 months. Results were analyzed according to age, gender and test result.

Results: Participation rate was high, 84.5% at entry, and declined only slightly. The decline was not related to test results nor initial results from the questionnaire. At entry, scores in each dimension in the study population were similar to expected scores in the background population. Participants tested positive at entry had significantly higher scores in all three domains, this difference disappeared at 12 months follow-up. Men had declining scores in all three domains at 3 and 12 months follow-up, whereas women had declining scores only in the domain anxiety. Identical patterns in changes in scoring were found regardless of age and gender. Participants tested positive had, regardless of later results of diagnostic work-up, declining scores during follow-up.

Conclusions: Given the limitations of the study, the results demonstrate no adverse effect on psychological well-being within 12 months following CRC screening regardless of age, gender or test result.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires