Fecal occult blood testing instructions and impact on patient adherence

Cancer Epidemiol. 2012 Aug;36(4):e258-64. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2012.03.007. Epub 2012 Apr 13.


Introduction: Although the physician's role with patients is crucial in encouraging FOBT screening, the nature and content of physician-patient discussions about FOBT screening is unclear. As part of a larger study, this paper reports on our analyses of physician beliefs about fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) and strategies they employed to enhance patient adherence. The second aim of this paper is to report on the perceptions of individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) in regard to their awareness of the FOBT and their responses to physician recommendations about FOBT screening.

Methods: The larger study was conducted in urban and rural Manitoba, Canada between 2008 and 2010. We used a qualitative design and conducted semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews with 15 physicians and 27 individuals at average risk for CRC. We included data from 11 family members or friends on their perspectives of FOBT instructions as individuals who were also at average risk for CRC and had their own experiences with CRC screening recommendations.

Results: Despite widespread knowledge of The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care CRC screening guidelines, physician attitudes, behaviors, and instructions were not uniform in promoting patient adherence to FOBT screening. Individuals at average-risk for CRC identified that FOBT instructions were confusing and burdensome, which in turn served as a barrier in their adherence to FOBT screening.

Conclusions: Variation in FOBT instruction counseling in relation to the recommended age of individuals at average risk for CRC, as well as adequate patient preparation affected patient adherence. We recommend uniform or standardized instructions and counseling by health care providers who administer the FOBT kit to patients to promote adherence to recommended CRC screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Feces
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians