Fear and screening for bowel cancer

Bowel Cancer Australia

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Fear of cancer can either motivate or deter people from cancer screening programs - suggesting the promotion of bowel cancer screening programs is more complex than previously thought.
According to a UK study of almost 8,000 adults considering endoscopic screening (colonoscopy) for bowel cancer, not everyone will take up the offer to screen for logical reasons such as detecting a possible cancer early.
The researchers found 59 per cent of people were more afraid of cancer than any other disease. About 25 per cent of the participants aged 55-64 years also worried a lot about cancer.
Yet while both groups had good intentions to screen for bowel cancer, many didn't follow through.
The researchers suggested only people who perceived their risk of bowel cancer to be low would think screening was reassuring. Other people may find the screening process added to their fears about a cancer diagnosis or dying from cancer.
The research also reported that more than half (53%) of the study group actually felt uncomfortable thinking about cancer. This group was the least likely to take up the offer to screen for bowel cancer.
Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Mr Julien Wiggins said while the UK research relates to colonoscopy, the findings have relevance to bowel cancer screening generally, including with an at-home test kit.
"In our Bowel Cancer Australia Survey: Community Awareness & Understanding of Bowel Cancer 2014, 69 per cent of participants agreed that fear of getting bad news was a disincentive to screening."
"As with most cancers, the sooner they are detected the better. If bowel cancer is detected early, around 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated," said Mr Wiggins.
Early detection is the theme for Bowel Cancer Australia's current awareness campaign, Don't Wait Until It's Too Late.
The study was published online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention on 29 January.
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