What is the role of family in promoting faecal occult blood test screening? Exploring physician, average-risk individual, and family perceptions

Cancer Epidemiol. 2012 Jun;36(3):e190-9. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2012.01.002. Epub 2012 Feb 5.


Background: Although the number of Canadians being screened for colon cancer is rising, only 40% of Canadians aged 50 years or older reported they had engaged in faecal occult blood test (FOBT) screening as recommended. The notion of 'partnerships' that is inclusive of physicians, individuals at average-risk for colorectal cancer, and influential family members is receiving more attention in primary health care literature and policy on promoting health maintenance behaviours. To the best of our knowledge there are no studies that have taken a tripartite approach in describing perspectives of these three key stakeholders on the role of family in promoting adherence to FOBT. The aim of this study was to address the gap in understanding the perspectives of primary care physicians, individuals at average-risk for colorectal cancer, and family on family role in promoting adherence to FOBT screening.

Method: We employed a qualitative design and conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 physicians, 27 patients at average-risk for colorectal cancer, and 19 family members or friends from urban and rural Manitoba, Canada between October 2008 and March 2010. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using content analysis and constant comparative techniques.

Results: While physicians described a clear role for family in managing chronic disease or dealing with acute or serious illness, they identified barriers in working with family to promote FOBT screening: lack of time, privacy and confidentiality concerns, and family dynamics. Conversely, patients and family described instrumental, emotional, informational, and appraisal roles that family play in promoting FOBT outside medical encounters.

Conclusion: Adherence to colorectal cancer screening is based on supportive 'patient-physician' dialogue that is separate from assistive 'patient-family member' relations. Further research is required to explore social support mechanisms involving family members outside medical encounters that hold promise in boosting self-efficacy, overcoming barriers, and gaining positive reinforcement for individuals at average-risk when making the decision to engage in FOBT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Data Collection
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manitoba
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Support
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data