Utilization of colorectal cancer screening tests: a 1997 survey of Massachusetts internists

P C Schroy, A C Geller, M Crosier Wood, M Page, L Sutherland, L J Holm, T Heeren
Preventive Medicine 2001, 33 (5): 381-91

BACKGROUND: Physician noncompliance with screening recommendations has been a major barrier to effective colorectal cancer control. The overall objectives of this study were to assess the current attitudes and screening behavior of primary care physicians in light of new efficacy data, revised guidelines, improved technology, and more widespread insurance coverage.

METHODS: Questionnaires inquiring about knowledge, beliefs, and practice patterns related to colorectal cancer screening were mailed in mid-1997 to 700 randomly selected Massachusetts internists.

RESULTS: The overall response rate was 63%. Nearly 60% of respondents reported an increase in screening behavior during the past 5 years. Most (80%) were aware of at least one set of screening guidelines and 90% reported utilizing one or more recommended screening strategies. Fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), alone (47%) or in combination with flexible sigmoidoscopy (50%), was the preferred strategy for most respondents. Colonoscopy was rarely utilized (5%) despite high perceived effectiveness. Concern about patient compliance was a significant determinant of FOBT utilization, whereas perceived effectiveness, concerns about time or efficacy data, prior procedural training, date of licensure, and use of instructional materials were independent determinants of sigmoidoscopy utilization.

CONCLUSION: Massachusetts' internists report high rates of utilization of select colorectal cancer screening strategies. Future studies must validate self-reported compliance and explore barriers to screening colonoscopy.

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