OBJECTIVES: Medicare beneficiaries now have access to screening colonoscopy (SC). For colon cancer screening to be fruitful, SC must become more acceptable to a broad segment of this population. However, we currently lack knowledge of which aspects of SC have an impact on patient acceptance. The aims of this study were: 1) to identify the features of SC that are most important in deterring participation, and 2) to prioritize and to compare the perceptions of never-screened individuals with those of individuals previously screened for colon cancer. METHODS: Questionnaires were distributed to 300 outpatients at Mayo Clinic, Rochester (150 never-screened patients; 150 previously screened patients). The survey instrument addressed domains of the Health Belief Model and colon cancer risk perception. Patients ranked the three most important barriers to SC and answered general knowledge questions on colon cancer. RESULTS: Response rates of never-screened (84%) and screened (88%) patients were similar. Never-screened patients were less likely to have a regular primary physician (80% vs 95%, p = 0.0003) and were less likely to have undergone a prior screening mammography (87% vs 96% of women, p = 0.02) compared with screened patients. The four most reported deterrents to SC ("volume of bowel preparation," "adequate analgesia," "no recommendation from primary physician," and "embarrassment") were ranked similarly by both groups. Never-screened patients had less understanding of the incidence and treatment outcomes of colon cancer. CONCLUSION: Colon cancer screening behavior seems to be associated with having a regular primary physician, as well as other cancer screening behaviors. Knowledge of colon cancer is the most reliable discriminator of prior screening status. There does not seem to be any difference in the preferences expressed by never-screened and screened patients with respect to the aspects of colonoscopy that they find objectionable.
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