Only about half of eligible individuals undergo colon cancer screening. We have limited knowledge about the patient beliefs that adversely affect screening decisions and about which beliefs might be amenable to change through education. As part of a clinical trial, 641 rural Iowans, aged 52 to 79 years, reported their beliefs about colon cancer screening in response to a mailed questionnaire. Consenting subjects were randomized into four groups, which were distinguished by four levels of increasingly intensive efforts to promote screening. Two of the groups received mailed educational materials and completed a follow-up questionnaire, which allowed us to determine whether their beliefs about screening changed following the education. We also completed a factor analysis to identify underlying (latent) factors that might explain the responses to 33 questions about readiness, attitudes, and perceived barriers related to colon cancer screening. The strongest predictors of a patient's stated readiness to be screened were a physician's recommendation to be screened (1 point difference on 10-point Likert scale, 95 % confidence interval [CI], 0.5 to 1.6 point difference), a family history of colon cancer (0.85-point Likert scale difference, 95 % CI, 0.1 to 1.6), and a belief that health-care decisions should be mostly left to physicians rather than patients (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.21, P < .001). Of the 33 questionnaire items about screening beliefs, 11 (33 %) changed favorably following the educational intervention. In the factor analysis, the 33 items were reduced to 8 underlying factors, such as being too busy to undergo screening and worries about screening procedures. We found a limited number of underlying factors that may help explain patient resistance to colon cancer screening.
Keywords: Colorectal neoplasms; Factor analysis; Health behavior.