Background: The emotion of disgust appears to promote psychological and behavioral avoidance, a dynamic that has significant implications in physical and psychological outcomes in colorectal cancer (CRC). Patients, caregivers, and health professionals alike are all potentially susceptible to responding with disgust and the associated avoidance.
Objective: This article aimed to review the early-stage literature related to disgust and CRC, consider the clinical implications, and suggest an appropriate research agenda.
Methods: Given limited research in this area, a systematic review of the literature was broadened to include disgust and all cancers. MEDLINE, Web of Science, SCOPUS, and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses databases were searched, with additional works sourced by reviewing citation lists and/or by contacting the lead authors.
Results: Nine studies were identified relating to disgust and cancer screening, and 6 related to disgust and cancer treatment. Two broad findings emerged: (1) disgust appears to be promoting aversion to (and avoidance of) CRC screening, and (2) several known elicitors of disgust are widely apparent in CRC contexts.
Conclusions: Disgust likely represents a key emotional substrate for avoidance among CRC patients, caregivers, and health professionals. Further research is required to identify disgust’s elicitors and effects in CRC contexts, informing interventions that target early identification of persons at risk of maladaptive outcomes. Exposure therapies and mindfulness training may be well suited to treating disgust-generated avoidance.
Implications for Practice: Disgust has significant implications in CRC contexts. Oncology nurses are uniquely positioned to guide clinical interventions and ultimately improve outcomes in this area.