Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, partly because it is often detected at advanced stages. Screening reduces death by detecting cancers earlier when they are more curable.
A new study shows primary care providers do not screen all eligible patients for colorectal cancer. Researchers attribute the limited use of these tests to four factors -- perceptions of the tests' effectiveness, the reliability or understanding of patients, provider forgetfulness, and financial compensation.
Investigators surveyed 1,340 primary care providers for their perspective on screening practices. On average, the health providers reported that they recommended screening to only 79 percent of their eligible patients. Half of the physicians surveyed recommended the fecal occult blood test to less than 90 percent of their patients, flexible sigmoidoscopy to less than 70 percent, and colonoscopy to less than 8 percent of eligible patients. All of these tests are widely available and used often to screen for colorectal cancer.
Researchers conclude saying greater reimbursement for performing screening tests, increased education efforts, and simple reminders for patients and physicians would improve screening rates and save lives.