Obstacles to colorectal screening in general practice: a qualitative study of GPs and patients

Fam Pract. 2011 Dec;28(6):670-6. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmr020. Epub 2011 May 6.


Background: The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) has proven efficiency at screening populations for an average risk of colorectal cancer. Mortality related to this cancer decreases by 15-18% among adults, 50-74 years old, tested every 2 years. A participation rate of at least 50% is desirable. This rate has not yet been reached in most French regions.

Objective: To explore the obstacles to mass colorectal screening in France.

Method: In 2009, five focus groups were conducted in different areas to explore physicians' obstacles to FOBT screening. The patients' obstacles were assessed in semi-structured interviews. A purposive sampling had been carried out for both GPs and patients. The focus groups were coded using Nvivo 8(®) software by three researchers; the interviews manually coded by two researchers.

Results: GPs reported insufficient training and some doubted the relevance of screening. They expressed concern of having insufficient time for the test during a consultation, as well as practical and administrative obstacles. Some GPs experienced difficulty persuading patients who had no signs of colorectal disease. Obstacles for patients were mainly difficulties in doing screening themselves and a perception of health care that didn't match with screening. Information and organization were also important points to improve. The screening process was considered complex both by GPs and by patients.

Conclusions: Numerous obstacles to colorectal screening, from both the physicians' and the patients' perspectives, were found. The major goal to improve mass screening may be to increase awareness and understanding of both physicians and patients regarding this process.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • France
  • General Practice*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Time Factors