OBJECTIVES: To investigate the psychosocial consequences of receiving a false-positive (no abnormalities) result or being diagnosed with polyps compared with receiving a negative result in a colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programme.
DESIGN AND SETTING: This was a longitudinal study nested in the roll-out of the Danish CRC screening programme that targets all individuals aged 50-74 years.
PARTICIPANTS: In the inclusion period (April-September 2017), all positive screenees (n=1854) were consecutively enrolled and matched 2:1:1 on sex, age (±2 years), municipality and screening date with negative screenees (n=933) and individuals not yet invited to screening (n=933).Questionnaires were sent by mail to all eligible participants in Region Zealand, Denmark, after the screening result, 2 months and 12 months after the final result.Positive screenees who did not receive the follow-up procedure were excluded.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcomes were psychosocial consequences. Outcomes were measured with the CRC screening-specific questionnaire Consequences of screening in CRC with 11 outcomes after the screening result and with 21 outcomes at the two later assessments.
RESULTS: After receiving the screening result, individuals with no abnormalities, low-risk and medium-risk and high-risk polyps scored significantly worse on 8 of 11 outcomes compared with the negative screenee group. At the 12-month follow-up, the differences were still significant in 8 of 21 outcomes (no abnormalities), 4 of 21 outcomes (low-risk polyps) and 10 of 21 outcomes (medium-risk and high-risk polyps). The negative screenee group and the group not yet invited to screening differed psychosocially on 5 of 11 outcomes after the screening result, but on none of the 21 outcomes at the 2 months and 12 months follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: The study showed that there are both short-term and long-term psychosocial consequences associated with receiving a no abnormalities result or being diagnosed with polyps. The consequences were worst for individuals diagnosed with medium-risk and high-risk polyps.