Introduction of risk stratification within population-based cancer screening programmes has the potential to optimise resource allocation by targeting screening towards members of the population who will benefit from it most. Endorsement from healthcare professionals is necessary to facilitate successful development and implementation of risk-stratified interventions. Therefore, this review aims to explore whether using risk stratification within population-based cancer screening programmes is acceptable to healthcare professionals and to identify any requirements for successful implementation.
We searched four electronic databases from January 2010 to October 2021 for quantitative, qualitative, or primary mixed methods studies reporting healthcare professional and/or other stakeholder opinions on acceptability of risk-stratified population-based cancer screening. Quality of the included studies was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Data were analysed using the Joanna Briggs Institute convergent integrated approach to mixed methods analysis and mapped onto the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research using a ‘best fit’ approach. PROSPERO record CRD42021286667.
A total of 12,039 papers were identified through the literature search and seven papers were included in the review, six in the context of breast cancer screening and one considering screening for ovarian cancer. Risk stratification was broadly considered acceptable, with the findings covering all five domains of the framework: intervention characteristics, outer setting, inner setting, characteristics of individuals, and process. Across these five domains, key areas that were identified as needing further consideration to support implementation were: a need for greater evidence, particularly for de-intensifying screening; resource limitations; need for staff training and clear communication; and the importance of public involvement.
Risk stratification of population-based cancer screening programmes is largely acceptable to healthcare professionals, but support and training will be required to successfully facilitate implementation. Future research should focus on strengthening the evidence base for risk stratification, particularly in relation to reducing screening frequency among low-risk cohorts and the acceptability of this approach across different cancer types.