Introduction: Urban minority groups, such as those living in north Manhattan, are generally underserved with regard to cancer prevention and screening practices. Primary care physicians are in a critical position to counsel their patients on these subjects and to order screening tests for their patients.
Methods: Eighty-four primary care physicians in two intervention communities who received educational visits about cancer screening and prevention were compared with 38 physicians in a nearby community who received no intervention. With pre- and post-test interviews over an 18-month period, the physicians were asked about their attitudes toward, knowledge of (relative to American Cancer Society guidelines), and likelihood of counseling and screening for breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
Results: Comparison of the two surveys of physicians indicated no statistically significant differences in knowledge of cancer prevention or screening. At post-test, however, intervention group physicians identified significantly fewer barriers to practice than control physicians (p<0.05). While overall, the educational visits to inner-city primary care physicians did not appear to significantly alter cancer prevention practices, there was a positive dose-response relationship among the subgroup of participants who received three or more project contacts.
Conclusions: We uncovered significant changes in attitude due to academic detailing among urban primary care physicians practicing in north Manhattan. A significant pre-test sensitization effect and small numbers may have masked overall changes in cancer prevention and screening behaviors among physicians due to the intervention.