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J Med Screen. 1995;2(4):224-7.

Public understanding of medical screening.

Author information

1
Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, Carlton South, Australia.

Abstract

AIM:

To estimate the extent of public understanding of mass screening for disease and of the benefits and limitations of screening.

METHODS:

Telephone interviews were conducted with a national sample of 835 Australians.

RESULTS:

Of total respondents, 68% claimed to have heard of screening tests, but only 21% correctly understood that screening tests are for asymptomatic people. This understanding was related to education. The most frequently named tests were mammography (51%) and Pap tests (33%), and for all age groups these were mentioned by more women than men. Around 27% of respondents thought that the Pap test would detect 95% or more of case, 45% thought the test would detect 90% or more, while 60% of respondents thought the test would detect 80% or more of cases. Around 29% of respondents thought that mammography would detect 95% or more of cases, 49% thought the test would detect 90% or more, while 65% of respondents thought the test would detect 80% or more of cases. Of all respondents, 33% favoured compensation when cases were "missed" by screening provided people were warned beforehand, 58% were not in favour, and 9% were unsure.

CONCLUSIONS:

There are misconceptions among the public concerning the purpose of screening and the accuracy of screening tests. However, most people accept that some cases of disease will be missed by screening and that if people are adequately informed beforehand compensation should not automatically follow for those whose disease is missed.

PMID:
8719153
DOI:
10.1177/096914139500200410
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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