A Qualitative Analysis of Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening among Korean Americans

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Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most-commonly diagnosed cancer among Korean Americans after breast cancer, with incidence rates exceeding that of lung, prostate, and stomach cancers. However, CRC screening rates are lower among Korean Americans than the general U.S. population. To understand barriers to screening in this population, we conducted 11 focus groups with 51 Korean Americans ages 40+ in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area between 2011 and 2016. Our analysis used the Health Belief Model as a framework. Motivators to seek screening include a family or personal history of cancer or gastrointestinal disease (high perceived susceptibility), knowing people with CRC (high severity), favorable test results reducing worry (high benefits), and physician recommendations (cues to action). Barriers to screening include the common misperception that Korean lifestyles prevent CRC (low susceptibility), the belief that cancer is normal for older adults (low severity), the assumption that screening only benefits symptomatic people (low benefits), the costs and potential risks of testing along with a preference for traditional Korean approaches to wellness (high barriers), and lack of health insurance (low self-efficacy). Interventions seeking to increase the rate of cancer screening in the Korean American community will benefit from emphasizing the burden from CRC among Korean Americans (increasing perceived susceptibility to CRC), explaining that colonoscopies can prevent CRC rather than just diagnosing it (increasing perceived benefits of screening), reducing anxieties about test procedures and embarrassment (reducing perceived barriers to screening), and improving clinical communication (improving cues to action and self-efficacy).

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Journal of Cancer Education

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