Background: As we enter the year 2000, it is worth looking at whether primary care practices are reaching the goals established in Healthy People 2000 for breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostatic cancer screening. The objectives of this study were (1) to determine the current rates of cancer screening; and (2) to determine which factors predict completion of a single screening test, of all tests for each cancer, and of all procedures for age and sex.
Methods: Medical records of 200 eligible patients (100 men and 100 women) from each of 24 community-based primary care practices were abstracted for cancer-screening events.
Results: We audited 5125 charts. A Papanicolaou smear was documented for 63.8% of women with an intact cervix within 3 years of the audit.. We found that 46.8% of women had documentation of ever having a discussion of breast self-examination. For breast cancer screening, 41.8% of the women had a clinical breast examination within 1 year, 48.2% aged 40 to 49 years had a mammogram within 2 years, and 38.5% aged 50 years and older had a mammogram within 1 year. Only 29% of women aged 40 to 49 years and 17% of women 50 years and older were current for all breast cancer-screening tests. Among patients 50 years and older, 33% of men and 38% of women had a digital rectal examination within 1 year, 26% of men and 28% of women had a fecal occult blood test within 1 year, and 22% of men and 16.8% of women had a flexible sigmoidoscopy within 5 years. Of all men 28.7% had a prostate-specific antigen test within 1 year. Completion of all tests relevant for age and sex were documented for 8.6% of women aged 40 to 49 years, 3% of women 50 years and older, and 5% of men 50 years and older. The single most significant predictor of documented cancer screening was a health maintenance visit.
Conclusions: This sample of primary care clinicians has not reached the goals set in Healthy People 2000 for cancer screening. Interventions aimed at increasing the percentage of patients who schedule a health maintenance visit could serve to increase cancer screening and help us reach goals set for the year 2010.