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Objectives.  Although embarrassment may be among the most easily modified discrete emotional barriers to patients seeking health care or testing, work in the area of colorectal cancer (CRC) has been restricted by the absence of suitable instrumentation. The current report describes the development and validation of a self-report instrument assessing two specific aspects of CRC screening embarrassment and their links to screening outcomes.

Design.  Convenience sampling was used to recruit 245 European American, African-American, and immigrant Caribbean community-dwelling men and women (aged 45–75 years) living in Brooklyn, New York.

Methods.  Participants completed the measure of CRC screening embarrassment, an array of convergent and divergent validity measures including dispositional embarrassment, general medical embarrassment, neuroticism, trait emotion, social desirability, previous treatment avoidance because of embarrassment, relevant health characteristics, and a brief CRC screening history.

Results.  As expected, CRC screening embarrassment was not unidimensional and had two reliable and distinct components, one concentrated on faecal/rectal embarrassment and the other on embarrassment arising from unwanted intimacy during examinations. In addition to demonstrating patterns of convergent and divergent validity consistent with their separation, multivariate analyses indicated that faecal/rectal embarrassment (but not intimacy concerns) predicted CRC screening frequency.

Conclusions.  The current report extends current understanding by identifying the specific sources of embarrassment that may contribute to patients' avoidance of CRC screening. Directions for future study and implications for clinical practice and interventions are discussed.