Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Faecal occult blood testing (FOBT)-based colorectal cancer screening trends and predictors of non-use: findings from the South Australian setting and implications for increasing FOBT uptake

Kamelia Todorov A D , Carlene Wilson B C , Greg Sharplin B and Nadia Corsini B

A School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

B Cancer Council SA, 202 Greenhill Road, Eastwood, SA 5063, Australia. Email: cwilson@cancersa.org.au; gsharplin@cancersa.org.au; ncorsini@cancersa.org.au

C Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, Flinders University, Flinders Drive, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: kamelia.todorov@adelaide.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16126
Submitted: 16 June 2016  Accepted: 11 November 2016   Published online: 2 March 2017

Abstract

Objective The present study used data from three South Australian population health surveys to examine trends in knowledge, recent use and reasons for use or non-use of faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening from 2011 to 2014. Screening awareness and demographic factors related to non-use were also examined.

Methods FOBT trends were examined for respondents aged 50–75 years across survey years (n ~ 1000). Logistic regression analyses were undertaken to determine predictors of non-use and reasons for non-use of FOBT based on latest data.

Results The proportion of respondents reporting recent FOBT use has trended up, whereas the proportion reporting non-use has trended down. Awareness of screening recommendations has increased. Respondents who were aware of screening recommendations and those aged 65–69 years were significantly less likely to report non-use. The most commonly reported reasons for FOBT use were as part the national screening program or routine examination, whereas reasons for non-use were not having symptoms and doctor not advising to have the test.

Conclusions FOBT screening trends are indicative of the positive effect of the continued expansion of the national screening program. FOBT uptake may be increased by addressing salient barriers, as indicated by persisting reasons for non-use of FOBT.

What is known about the topic? Australia has one of the highest age-standardised incidence rates of CRC (or bowel cancer) in the world. Population screening using non-invasive stool-based FOBT was implemented in Australia in 2006 with the introduction of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP). To date, the NBCSP has been extended to only a small proportion of the target population and FOBT screening rates remain well below desired levels to effect changes in CRC outcomes at the population level. There is a recognised need for more robust data on CRC screening practices to inform interventions aimed at increasing FOBT uptake, beyond the scope of the NBCSP.

What does this paper add? The study provides valuable insights into trends of FOBT screening indicators over time in the South Australia, drawing on data from population state health surveys undertaken from 2011 to 2014. A particular advantage of the dataset was that it included data on reasons for use and non-use of FOBT. These data are not routinely assessed in population-level studies of FOBT uptake, although such information would be beneficial for tracking implementation of the national program and identifying salient barriers to FOBT uptake in low-participation groups. Thus, the study also describes factors related to non-use and reasons for non-use of FOBT among the target population for CRC screening.

What are the implications for practitioners? Results suggest that there have been considerable shifts in community knowledge and FOBT screening participation rates from 2011 to 2014, reflecting the positive effect of the NBCSP. Reliance on physician recommendation to screen, as well as knowledge deficits related to screening frequency and the perceived relevance of screening remain prominent barriers to FOBT uptake. Recommendations for increasing FOBT uptake are made in view of salient barriers and identified segments of the population less likely to report FOBT use.

Additional keywords: bowel cancer, early detection.


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