Reasons For Lack of Follow-up Colonoscopy Among Persons With A Positive Fecal Occult Blood Test Result: A Qualitative Study

Am J Gastroenterol. 2018 Dec;113(12):1872-1880. doi: 10.1038/s41395-018-0381-4. Epub 2018 Oct 25.


Objectives: Follow-up colonoscopy rates among persons with positive fecal occult blood test results (FOBT + ) remain suboptimal in many jurisdictions. In Ontario, Canada, primary care providers (PCPs) are responsible for arranging follow-up colonoscopies. The objectives were to understand the reasons for a lack of follow-up colonoscopy and any action plans to address follow-up.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 FOBT+ persons and 30 PCPs in Ontario. Eligible FOBT+ persons were identified through administrative databases and included those aged 50-74, with a 6-12 month old FOBT+, no follow-up colonoscopy, and no prior colorectal cancer diagnosis or colectomy. Eligible PCPs had ≥1 rostered FOBT+ person without follow-up colonoscopy. Transcripts were analyzed inductively using Nvivo 11 (QSR International Pty Ltd., 2015).

Results: Reasons for lack of follow-up colonoscopy were: person and/or provider believed the FOBT + was a false positive; person was afraid of colonoscopy; person had other health issues; and breakdown in communication of FOBT+ results or colonoscopy appointments. PCPs who initially recommended follow-up colonoscopy did not change the minds of the persons who dismissed the FOBT+ as a false positive and/or who were afraid of the procedure. These FOBT+ persons negotiated an alternative follow-up action plan including repeating the FOBT or not following-up.

Conclusions: PCPs may not adequately counsel FOBT+ persons who believe the FOBT+ is a false positive and/or fear colonoscopy. PCPs may lack fail-safe systems to communicate FOBT+ results and colonoscopy appointments. Using navigators may help address these barriers and increase follow-up rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / psychology*
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Counseling
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • No-Show Patients / psychology*
  • No-Show Patients / statistics & numerical data
  • Occult Blood*
  • Ontario
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians, Primary Care / psychology*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research