Background: Developing effective programs to promote colorectal cancer (CRC) screening requires understanding of the effect of healthcare system factors on access to screening and adherence to guidelines.
Methods: This study assessed the role of insurance status, type of plan, the frequency of preventive health visits, and provider recommendation on utilization of CRC screening tests using a cross-sectional, random-digit-dial survey of 1002 Massachusetts residents aged > or =50.
Results: A broad definition of CRC screening status included colonoscopy or barium enema (screening or diagnostic) within 10 years, flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) within 5 years, and fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) in the past year as options; 51.7% of subjects aged 50 to 64 and 61.5% of older subjects were current. The uninsured had the lowest current testing rate. Among insured participants, type of insurance had little impact on CRC testing; older subjects enrolled in HMOs had marginally higher rates, although not statistically significant. Increased frequency of preventive health visits and ever receiving a physician's recommendation for FSIG or ever receiving FOBT cards were associated with higher rates of CRC screening among both age groups.
Conclusions: Even when broad criteria are used to define current CRC screening status, a substantial proportion of the age-eligible population remains underscreened. Obtaining regular preventive care and receiving a physician's recommendation for screening appear to be potent facilitators of screening that should be considered in designing promotional efforts.