Perceived colorectal cancer candidacy and the role of candidacy in colorectal cancer screening

Annemieke Bikker, Sara Macdonald, Kathryn A. Robb, Ellie Conway, Susan Browne, Christine Campbell, David Weller, Robert Steele, Una Macleod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Screening is a well-established tool to advance earlier cancer diagnosis. We used Davison’s concept of ‘candidacy’ to explore how individuals draw on collectively constructed images of ‘typical’ colorectal cancer (CRC) sufferers, or ‘candidates’, in order to evaluate their own risk and to ascertain the impact of candidacy on screening participation in CRC. We interviewed 61 individuals who were invited to participate in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. Of these, 37 were screeners (17 men and 20 women) and 24 non-screeners (13 men and 11 women). To analyse these data we used a coding frame that drew on: symptoms, risk factors, and retrospective and prospective candidacy. Few participants could identify a definite bowel cancer candidate and notions of candidacy were largely predicated on luck in the sense that anyone could be a candidate for CRC and there was little evidence to support a linear relationship between feelings of risk and screening decisions. Often participants described screening as part of a wider portfolio of being healthy and referred to feeling obliged to look after themselves. Our study suggests that rather than candidates for bowel cancer, screeners viewed themselves as candidates for screening by which screening decisions pointed towards the acceptance and normalisation of the rhetoric of personal responsibility for health. These findings have related theoretical and practical implications; the moral structure that underpins the new public health can be witnessed practically in the narratives by which those who see themselves as candidates for screening embrace wider positive health practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth, Risk & Society
Early online date30 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Oct 2019


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