Communication about colorectal cancer screening in Britain: public preferences for an expert recommendation

Br J Cancer. 2012 Dec 4;107(12):1938-43. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2012.512. Epub 2012 Nov 22.


Background: Informed decision-making approaches to cancer screening emphasise the importance of decisions being determined by individuals' own values and preferences. However, advice from a trusted source may also contribute to autonomous decision-making. This study examined preferences regarding a recommendation from the NHS and information provision in the context of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening.

Methods: In face-to-face interviews, a population-based sample of adults across Britain (n=1964; age 50-80 years) indicated their preference between: (1) a strong recommendation to participate in CRC screening, (2) a recommendation alongside advice to make an individual decision, and (3) no recommendation but advice to make an individual decision. Other measures included trust in the NHS and preferences for information on benefits and risks.

Results: Most respondents (84%) preferred a recommendation (47% strong recommendation, 37% recommendation plus individual decision-making advice), but the majority also wanted full information on risks (77%) and benefits (78%). Men were more in favour of a recommendation than women (86% vs 81%). Trust in the NHS was high overall, but the minority who expressed low trust were less likely to want a recommendation.

Conclusion: Most British adults want full information on risks and benefits of screening but they also want a recommendation from an authoritative source. An 'expert' view may be an important part of autonomous health decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Communication
  • Decision Making*
  • Disclosure*
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Mass Screening* / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • National Health Programs
  • Occult Blood
  • Odds Ratio
  • Public Opinion*
  • Risk
  • Sampling Studies
  • Social Class
  • Trust*
  • United Kingdom