Background: Sufficient evidence has accumulated to suggest that the first-degree relatives of patients diagnosed with colorectal adenomas before the age of 60 are at increased risk of colorectal cancer. The principal objective of this study was to assess the extent to which channels of communication exist between physicians, patients and their at-risk first-degree relatives regarding both familial risk and screening recommendations.
Methods: A telephone survey was conducted among 79 patients (age < or = 60 years) with newly diagnosed colorectal adenomas. Information regarding patient demographics, awareness of familial risk, physician recommendations, and extent of communication with family members about their risk status and need for screening was ascertained.
Results: Forty-four (56%) of the 79 eligible subjects completed the survey. Only 18 (41%) responders were aware that their first-degree relatives were at increased risk of colorectal cancer, and the majority claimed to have gained their awareness through sources other than their physicians. Only five (28%) of the 18 knowledgeable patients notified their at-risk relatives of their status, and only two (11%) communicated the need for screening.
Conclusions: This survey demonstrates poor communication about familial colorectal cancer risk associated with colorectal adenomas, and highlights the need for novel strategies to both promote awareness and facilitate screening of at-risk relatives.