What influences bowel cancer screening participation in men and women?

Men and women

New research published by National Cancer Registry researchers has revealed that different factors influence men and women in their decision to take part in bowel cancer screening. Bowel cancer is the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in Ireland. BowelScreen, the National Bowel Screening Programme was launched in 2013 and is still a relatively new programme.

Low participation rates in bowel screening have been reported in the UK and attributed to considerable inequalities in participation across areas and demographics. Recently, lower uptake among men compared with women has been reported. Understanding the reasons for participation and non-participation in Ireland’s bowel screening programme is key to improving uptake.

The study, was conducted in collaboration with UCC, DCU, Tallaght Hospital and Newcastle University. The research project was funded by the Irish Cancer Society. Forty-seven men and women who had decided to take part or not take part in a bowel cancer screening programme were interviewed.  The test, which aims to detect bowel cancer at earlier stages or as a pre-cancerous polyp, can be completed by the person in their own home. Findings from the study indicate that men who decided not to take part in screening were often fatalistic about cancer and had poor knowledge of bowel cancer and bowel cancer screening. Women who decided not to take part often held negative beliefs and emotions about the screening test.

The research suggest the need for greater national discussion about screening, the benefits of early detection, but also the need to improve knowledge and awareness of the screening programme’s potential to reduce the number of people who die from bowel cancer each year.

The findings are published in Psycho-Oncology.

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