Reasons for never and intermittent completion of colorectal cancer screening after receiving multiple rounds of mailed fecal tests

Beverly B. Green, June BlueSpruce, Leah Tuzzio, Sally W. Vernon, L. Aubree Shay, Sheryl L Catz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Long-term adherence to colorectal cancer (CRC) screening is particularly important for fecal testing. Some U.S. studies report that only 25% of individuals repeat fecal testing annually. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify barriers and facilitators reported by patients with suboptimal screening adherence to refine interventions for starting ongoing adherence to CRC screening. We also explored whether participants, particularly never screeners, would be willing to do a CRC screening blood test. Methods: Forty-one patients who previously enrolled in the Systems of Support to Increase CRC Screening (SOS) trial were interviewed 4-5 years later. Participants were purposively selected to include men and women with diverse race/ethnicities who had either been inconsistent screeners or had never screened during the first three years of SOS despite receiving at least two rounds of mailed fecal tests. Two interviewers conducted 30-min telephone interviews using a semi-structured interview guide. An iterative thematic analysis approach was used. Results: Themes related to screening barriers were more pervasive among never screeners including: (1) Avoidance (inattention, procrastination) (2) Concerns about handling stool; (3) Health concerns; (4) Fear of a cancer diagnosis or positive test results. Themes related to screening facilitators were more often mentioned by participants who screened at least once including: (1) Use of a simpler 1-sample fecal test; (2) Convenience of mailings and doing the test at home; (3) Salience of prevention, especially as one got older; and (4) Influence of recommendations from providers, family and friends. Participants had diverse preferences for the number (3 on average) and types (phone, mail, text) of screening reminders. Some participants did not prefer e-mail links to the patient shared electronic health record because of difficulties remembering their password. It was acceptable for a nurse or medical assistant not from their clinic to call them as long as that person was knowledgeable about their records and could communicate with their physician. Participants, especially never screeners, were generally very enthusiastic about the potential option of a CRC screening blood test. Conclusion: Future CRC screening programs should be designed to minimize these barriers and maximize facilitators to improve long-term screening adherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number531
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 30 2017


  • Adherence
  • Barriers and facilitators
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Fecal testing
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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