Making decisions about cancer screening when the guidelines are unclear or conflicting

J Fam Pract. 2001 Aug;50(8):682-7.


Objective: Our purpose was to determine the factors involved in the cancer screening decisions of family physicians in situations where the clinical practice guidelines are unclear or conflicting as opposed to when they are clear and uncontroversial.

Study design: We analyzed discussions with focus groups using a constant comparative approach.

Population: A total of 73 family physicians in active practice participated in 10 focus groups (1 urban group and 1 rural group in each of 5 Canadian provinces).

Outcome measures: Our main outcome measures were participants' perceptions regarding cancer screening when the guidelines were unclear or conflicting.

Results: We propose a model of the determinants of cancer screening decision making with regard to unclear and conflicting guidelines. This model is rooted in the physician-patient relationship, and is an interactive process influenced by patient factors (anxiety, expectations, and family history) and physician factors (perception of guidelines, clinical practice experience, influence of colleagues, distinction between the screening styles of specialists and family physicians, and the amount of time and financial costs involved in performing the maneuver).

Conclusions: Our model is unique, because it is embedded in the physician-patient relationship. Ultimately, a modified model could be used to design interventions to assist with the implementation of preventive services guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Canada
  • Communication
  • Decision Making*
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Family Practice / methods
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Practice Location / statistics & numerical data