Cancer screening in Portugal: sex differences in prevalence, awareness of organized programmes and perception of benefits and adverse effects.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Cancer screening has contributed to downward trends in cancer mortality, but is also associated with adverse effects, which highlights the importance of promoting the participation based on informed decisions.

OBJECTIVES

We aimed to describe the use of cancer screening (either in organized programmes or as opportunistic screening), awareness of organized programmes and perception of its potential benefits and adverse effects, depicting possible sex differences.

DESIGN AND METHODS

We evaluated 1624 Portuguese-speaking dwellers, aged between 16 and 79 years, through face-to-face interviews. To quantify sex differences, adjusted prevalence ratios and respective 95% confidence intervals were computed using Poisson regression.

RESULTS

Among eligible age groups, the lifetime prevalence of screening for breast and cervical cancers was 89.8 and 71.9%, respectively. The prevalence was 23.7% for colorectal cancer and no significant sex differences were observed. Prostate cancer screening was reported by 63.8% of men. Over half of the participants referred that cancers such as prostate, skin, lung and stomach should be screened for, in addition to those for which organized programmes are recommended. Reassurance by negative results was identified as the main potential benefit of screening by nearly one-third of men and women. Anxiety while waiting for results was the most mentioned potential adverse effect (60.4%); men refer less often this and financial costs, although statistical significance of these results was borderline.

CONCLUSIONS

This study provides a benchmark to plan and monitor the effects of awareness-raising interventions, as well as for international comparisons across countries with different cancer prevention and control structures.

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