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Med Decis Making. 2013 Jan;33(1):59-70. doi: 10.1177/0272989X12453502. Epub 2012 Aug 15.

Patients' preferences and priorities regarding colorectal cancer screening.

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Department of Community & Preventive Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York (JGD)
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama (EB)
University of Massachusetts, Worcester, Massachusetts (JA)
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana (TFI)
Regenstrief Institute, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana (TFI)



US colorectal cancer screening guidelines for people at average risk for colorectal cancer endorse multiple screening options and recommend that screening decisions reflect individual patient preferences.


The authors used the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) to ascertain decision priorities of people at average risk for colorectal cancer attending primary care practices in Rochester, New York; Birmingham, Alabama; and Indianapolis, Indiana. The analysis included 4 decision criteria, 3 subcriteria, and 10 options.


Four hundred eighty-four people completed the study; 66% were female, 49% were African American, 9% had low literacy skills, and 27% had low numeracy skills. Overall, preventing cancer was given the highest priority (mean priority 55%), followed by avoiding screening test side effects (mean priority 17%), minimizing false-positive test results (mean priority 15%), and the combined priority of screening frequency, test preparation, and the test procedure(s) (mean priority 14%). Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed 6 distinct priority groupings containing multiple instances of decision priorities that differed from the average value by a factor of 4 or more. More than 90% of the study participants fully understood the concepts involved, 79% met AHP analysis quality standards, and 88% were willing to use similar methods to help make important health care decisions.


These results highlight the need to facilitate incorporation of patient preferences into colorectal cancer screening decisions. The large number of study participants able and willing to perform the complex AHP analysis used for this study suggests that the AHP is a useful tool for identifying the patient-specific priorities needed to ensure that screening decisions appropriately reflect individual patient preferences.

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