Barriers and facilitators to colorectal cancer diagnosis in New Zealand: a qualitative study
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Background: New Zealand (NZ) has high rates of colorectal cancer but low rates of early diagnosis. Due to a lack of understanding of the pre-diagnostic experience from the patient’s perspective, it is necessary to investigate potential patient and health system factors that contribute to longer diagnostic intervals. Previous qualitative studies have discussed delays using The Model of Pathways to Treatment, but this has not been explored in the NZ context. This study aimed to understand the patient experience and perception of their general practitioner (GP) through the diagnostic process in the Waikato region of NZ. In particular, we sought to investigate potential barriers and facilitators that contribute to longer diagnostic intervals. Methods: Ethical approval for this study was granted by the New Zealand Health and Disability Ethics Committee. Twenty-eight participants, diagnosed with colorectal cancer, were interviewed about their experience. Semi-structured interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically using The Model of Pathways to Treatment framework (intervals: appraisal, help-seeking, diagnostic). Results: Participant appraisal of symptoms was a barrier to prompt diagnosis, particularly if symptoms were normalised, intermittent, or isolated in occurrence. Successful self-management techniques also resulted in delayed help-seeking. However if symptoms worsened, disruption to work and daily routines were important facilitators to seeking a GP consultation. Participants positively appraised GPs if they showed good technical competence and were proactive in investigating symptoms. Negative GP appraisals were associated with a lack of physical examinations and misdiagnosis, and left participants feeling dehumanised during the diagnostic process. However high levels of GP interpersonal competence could override poor technical competence, resulting in an overall positive experience, even if the cancer was diagnosed at an advanced stage. Māori participants often appraised symptoms inclusive of their sociocultural environment and considered the impact of their symptoms in relation to family. Conclusions: The findings of this study highlight the importance of tailored colorectal cancer symptom communication in health campaigns, and indicate the significance of the interpersonal competence aspect of GP-patient interactions. These findings suggest that interpersonal competence be overtly displayed in all GP interactions to ensure a higher likelihood of a positive experience for the patient.
©2020 The Author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.