Colorectal cancer screening among the homeless population of New York City shelter-based clinics

Am J Public Health. 2014 Jul;104(7):1307-13. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301792. Epub 2014 May 15.


Objectives: We determined colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates, predictors, and barriers in 2 major New York City shelter-based clinics.

Methods: We extracted screening rates, sociodemographic characteristics, and factors associated with homelessness from medical records of domiciled and homeless patients aged 50 years and older (n = 443) with at least 3 clinic visits between 2010 and 2012.

Results: The majority of patients were African American or Hispanic, 76% were male, and 60.7% were homeless (mean = 2.4 years; SD = 2.8 years). Domiciled patients were more likely than homeless patients to be screened (41.3% vs 19.7%; P < .001). Homeless and domiciled patients received equal provider counseling, but more homeless patients declined screening (P < .001). In logistic regression, gender, race, duration of homelessness, insurance status, substance and alcohol abuse, chronic diseases, and mental health were not associated with screening, but housing, provider counseling, and older age were.

Conclusions: Proposed interventions to improve CRC screening include respite shelter rooms for colonoscopy prepping, patient navigators to help navigate the health system and accompany patients to and from the procedure, counseling at all clinical encounters, and tailored patient education to address misconceptions.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Time Factors