The Intention and Uptake of Colorectal Cancer Screening after a Brief Health Education Program in a Malaysian Primary Care Setting: A Population-Based Study

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Family Medicine, RCSI&UCD Malaysia Campus, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

2 Department of Public Health, RCSI&UCD Malaysia Campus, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

3 Department of Outpatient, Jalan Angsana Health Clinic, Ayer Itam, Penang, Malaysia.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cancer in women in Malaysia. A major challenge for CRC screening programs is to improve the screening participation rates. In Malaysia, the most critical barrier to the uptake of CRC screening is the lack of patient awareness. This study aimed to determine the intention and the uptake of CRC screening, and to explore the related motivators and barriers after raising awareness with a brief health education. Methods: An analytical cross-sectional study was conducted in a government health clinic of Penang from March to August 2019. Asymptomatic clinic attendees aged 50-75 years who had no prior awareness of CRC screening were recruited by systematic random sampling technique. Participants first received a standardised one to one health education, followed by an interview using a standardised questionnaire to assess their CRC screening intention and the relevant motivators and barriers. A submission of a sample for immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) was considered as an uptake of the CRC screening. Results: A total of 546 participants participated in this study. The mean age of the participants was 62.8 (SD=6.36). Majority of them were females (57.3%), Chinese (78.6%), who had attained primary or higher education (92.0%) and had comorbidities (87.0%).  After a brief health education, 231 participants (42.3%) agreed to undergo iFOBT. The actual screening uptake rate in this study was 28%. Perceived benefit of the test (84.4%) was the most common motivators, while self-perceived non-vulnerability was the biggest impediment to CRC screening intention. Physicians’ recommendation was the perceived most effective way in raising CRC awareness. Conclusion: Participants prefer physicians to provide health education. Standardised brief health education is inadequate to stimulate CRC screening adherence. Future interventions will require in-depth understanding of patients’ beliefs, risk perception, and affective responses.


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