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Open Access Research article

Factors associated with consultation behaviour for primary symptoms potentially indicating colorectal cancer: A cross-sectional study on response to symptoms

Ryan J Courtney12*, Christine L Paul12, Robert W Sanson-Fisher12, Finlay A Macrae3, John Attia24 and Mark McEvoy24

Author Affiliations

1 The Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour, School of Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Health, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

2 Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

3 Department of Colorectal Medicine and Genetics, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

4 The Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Health, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

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BMC Gastroenterology 2012, 12:100  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-12-100

Published: 3 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Little data exists on the factors associated with health care seeking behaviour for primary symptoms of colorectal cancer (CRC). This study aimed to identify individual, provider and psychosocial factors associated with (i) ever seeking medical advice and (ii) seeking early medical advice for primary symptoms of colorectal cancer (CRC).

Methods

1592 persons aged 56–88 years randomly selected from the Hunter Community Study (HCS) were sent a questionnaire.

Results

Males and those who had received screening advice from a doctor were at significantly higher odds of ever seeking medical advice for rectal bleeding. Persons who had private health coverage, consulted a doctor because the ‘symptom was serious’, or who did not wait to consult a doctor for another reason were at significantly higher odds of seeking early medical advice (< 2 weeks). For change in bowel habit, persons with lower income, within the healthy weight range, or who had discussed their family history of CRC irrespective of whether informed of ‘increased risk’ were at significantly higher odds of ever seeking medical advice. Persons frequenting their GP less often and seeing their doctor because the symptom persisted were at significantly higher odds of seeking early medical advice (< 2 weeks).

Conclusions

The seriousness of symptoms, importance of early detection, and prompt consultation must be articulated in health messages to at-risk persons. This study identified modifiable factors, both individual and provider-related to consultation behaviour. Effective health promotion efforts must heed these factors and target sub-groups less likely to seek early medical advice.