Patient attitudes towards faecal immunochemical testing for haemoglobin as an alternative to colonoscopic surveillance of groups at increased risk of colorectal cancer

J Med Screen. 2013;20(3):149-56. doi: 10.1177/0969141313503953. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Objectives: To examine attitudes towards an annual faecal immunochemical test for haemoglobin (FIT) versus three-yearly colonoscopic surveillance of individuals at intermediate risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).

Setting: A London hospital.

Methods: Five semi-structured discussion groups were conducted with 28 adults (aged 60-74, 61% female) with different levels of CRC risk and experience of colonoscopy or colonoscopic surveillance. Information was presented sequentially using a step-by-step discussion guide. Results were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: When evaluating FIT in the context of a surveillance programme, all respondents readily made comparisons with related tests that they had been exposed to previously. Those with no experience of surveillance were enthusiastic about an annual FIT to replace three-yearly colonoscopy, because they felt that the higher testing frequency could improve detection of advanced lesions. Those with experience of colonoscopic surveillance did not perceive FIT to be as accurate as colonoscopy, and therefore either preferred colonoscopy on its own or wanted an annual FIT in addition to three-yearly colonoscopy.

Conclusions: FIT may be well-received as an additional method of surveillance for new patients at intermediate risk of CRC. More research is required to better understand potential barriers associated with FIT surveillance for patients with experience of colonoscopic surveillance.

Keywords: bowel cancer; cancer surveillance; colonoscopy; faecal immunochemical test; patient preference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Colonoscopy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunochemistry
  • London
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Preference / psychology
  • Risk Factors