Influences on uptake of cancer screening in mental health service users: a qualitative studyReport as inadecuate

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BMC Health Services Research

, 16:257

Healthcare needs and demand


BackgroundCancers are a leading cause of death worldwide. People with mental illness are 30 % more likely to die from cancer than the general population. One reason for this may be low uptake of nationally offered cancer screening tests by people with mental illness. We aimed to identify barriers and facilitators for breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening uptake by people with mental illness in order to inform interventions to promote equal access.

MethodsThe interview study was conducted in both urban and rural settings. The study was informed by the Theoretical Domains Framework, using framework analysis and triangulation across participant groups. Participants included 45 mental health service users service users eligible for cancer screening, 29 mental health professionals and 11 professionals involved in cancer screening.

ResultsThemes emerging from the data that affected uptake included knowledge of screening programmes by both service users and healthcare providers; knowledge of, and attitudes towards, mental illness; health service-delivery factors; service users’ beliefs and concerns about cancer screening, and practical issues. These are relevant to different stages of the screening process. Service users do not receive invitations to screening or cancer testing kits if they are admitted to hospital. They are not routinely invited for screening if they are not registered with a general practitioner GP. Lack of integrated care means that mental health staff do not know if someone is overdue for a test and cancer screening is often not considered during health promotion. Barriers including information processing problems, the extent to which the screening process aggravates symptoms, poor staff client relationships and travel difficulties vary between individuals. Screening professionals are motivated to help, but may lack time or training to manage mental health needs. Reactive measures are available, but service users must request help which they may find difficult.

ConclusionsThere are specific barriers to cancer screening uptake for mental health service users that prevent equality of care. Interventions that can be personalised are needed at individual, policy and service-delivery levels. Primary and secondary care staff and policy-makers should work together to develop an integrated approach to cancer screening in this population.

KeywordsMental health Preventative medicine Public health Qualitative research Cancer screening Breast Cervical Bowel Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s12913-016-1505-4 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Abigail Clifton - Caroline Burgess - Sarah Clement - Ruth Ohlsen - Pras Ramluggun - Jackie Sturt - Paul Walters - Elizabeth


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