Evaluating Focus Group Data: Barriers to Screening for Prostate Cancer Patients

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Abstract

There is no doubt that the quantitative sciences of mathematics and statistics have contributed enormously to the rapidly growing scientific knowledge in medicine. However, just as medicine combines the nonquantifiable art-of-care with the quantifiable science-of-medicine, health services research can profitably use nonmathematical data without sacrificing scientific practice. Health researchers used to reading tables full of t-tests and p-values may feel skeptical of the scientific validity of qualitative research. The purpose of this paper is to show how qualitative research using focus groups (FG) and content analysis can be use to advance knowledge about the attitudes of potential cancer patients. The focus of this study is demonstrating the proper way to use focus groups in research on prostate cancer (PC). An investigation the attitudes of selected at-risk elderly men toward a particular care-seeking behavior, having a digital rectal exam (DRE), is used as an illustration of the qualitative methodology. Throughout the paper, the methodological consideration, relating to research techniques behind the data are featured to clarify the methodology and reinforce the scientific value of the results.