Patient perspectives on colorectal cancer screening and the role of general practice

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Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most frequent cause of cancer death in Australia. Early detection can reduce incidence and mortality. General practice-based initiatives have been proposed to improve CRC screening rates but to date have had modest impact. As there is limited research into the patient experience of CRC screening decision making, this study explored patient perspectives on CRC screening and the potential role for general practice.

Methods: Ten participants, aged between 50 and 74, from a general practice in South Australia were recruited by practice staff. Semi-structured interviews were conducted. Concurrent data collection and analysis were performed, guided by interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results: Two key themes were evident: attitudes toward screening and potential roles for general practice. Participants structured the experience of screening in terms of being proactive, ambivalent or avoidant. Roles for general practice centred on tasks as educators, trusted advisors, monitors and screeners. Mixed views on whether general practice involvement was necessary prompted consideration of additional sources of health information and motivation around screening.

Conclusions: Exploration of the patient experience provides insight into how participants make sense of screening and perceived roles for general practice (or other agents) in screening. There is satisfaction with current Government-driven processes but perceived value in general practice playing a complementary part in increasing screening rates. A multifaceted strategy, accounting for attitudes, is required to improve screening and population health outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Family Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2019


  • Patient perspectives
  • colorectal cancer
  • screening
  • General practice


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