Do no harm: No psychological harm from colorectal cancer screening

Benedicte Kirkøen, Paula Berstad, Edoardo Botteri, Tone Lise Avitsland, Alvilde Maria Ossum, Thomas De Lange, Geir Hoff, Tomm Bernklev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background:Participation in cancer screening programmes might cause worries in the population outweighting the benefits of reduced mortality. The present study aimed to investigate possible psychological harm of participation in a colorectal cancer (CRC) screening pilot in Norway.Methods:In a prospective, randomised trial participants (aged 50-74 years) were invited to either flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) screening, faecal immunochemical test (FIT), or no screening (the control group; 1: 1: 1). Three thousand two hundred and thirteen screening participants (42% of screened individuals) completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire as well as the SF-12 - a health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaire when invited to screening and when receiving the screening result. A control group was invited to complete the questionnaires only. Two thousand six hundred and eighteen control participants (35% of invited individuals) completed the questionnaire.Results:A positive screening result did not increase participants' level of anxiety or depression, or decrease participants' level of HRQOL. Participants who received a negative result reported decreased anxiety and improvement on some HRQOL dimensions. However, no change was considered to be of clinical relevance.Conclusion:The current study showed no clinically relevant psychological harm of receiving a positive CRC screening result or of participating in FS or FIT screening, in a Norwegian population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-504
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Faecal Immunochemical Test
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
  • Health-Related Quality of Life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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