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Pre-intervention evaluation of bowel cancer screening programme

In 2010 NEMS Market Research conducted a study into the effectiveness and awareness of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme and its impact on changes to behaviour.

Key benefits:

  • Identified at risk groups
  • Determined how the issue of letters/kits increased awareness
  • A range of recommendations to improve effectiveness of campaigns and increase awareness

Our Assigment

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has been in operation in England since April 2006 and automatically offers screening to men and women 60-69 years old every two years. The aims of this research were to determine:

  • the effectiveness of the programme on awareness;
  • its impact on changes to behaviour with regard to bowel cancer.


Awareness of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme was around 75%; just over half of the total sample recall receiving a letter. The letter proved informative and easy to read, however, lower ACORN groups found it notably more difficult to read and less informative.
Only 17% of all respondents sampled were able to correctly identify all five symptoms of bowel cancer. 16% could not correctly associate any of the five symptoms of the condition.
Those least likely to be aware of the symptoms, and least likely to take appropriate action if a symptom were detected, were also typically of poorer health and diet. Men, with a lower than average level of awareness of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, were twice as likely to state nothing would encourage them to carry out a test for bowel cancer.


The posting of letters/kits and the use of other campaign material (such as posters and leaflets) contributed to the increased awareness of the programme; indications are that the letter/kit accounted for 74% and a further 15% was attributed to other campaign material.
Those most at risk were identified as: poorer health and diet; men; and the Pakistani community.
A range of recommendations included: improve the ease of understanding and use of the campaign materials among the at risk groups; positive engagement of men through the design of materials and campaign channels deployed; and encouragement of GPs to pro-actively engage patients to partake in the screening programme.

Our Approach

649 face-to-face interviews were conducted among adults aged 60-74. Quota controlled on gender, age, ethnicity and ACORN grouping. Respondents were required not to have (or had anyone close to them) ever been in hospital to have tests carried out for bowel cancer.

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