Barriers to colorectal cancer screening in rural primary care

Prev Med. 2004 Mar;38(3):269-75. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2003.11.001.


Background: Residents of rural communities may face unique barriers to obtaining colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, including reduced access to services. This study assessed the impact of patient, physician, and practice characteristics on rural primary care patient receipt of CRC screening.

Methods: We surveyed patients (N = 801) over 50 years of age and primary care physicians (N = 36) in rural practices. Medical students administered surveys to assess patient demographics, self-reported CRC screening, practice features, local availability of endoscopy, and physician screening test preferences. We used multivariable logistic regression analyses to investigate associations between independent variables, and (1) patient CRC screening status and (2) adequacy of CRC discussions between physicians and patients.

Results: Fifty-seven percent of patients reported being up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening and most in this group had received FOBT and endoscopy. A minority of patients (39%) reported adequate time to discuss CRC screening, and this was positively associated with being up-to-date with CRC screening in a multivariable analysis. Endoscopy was available in 58% of the practices and 44% of the practices had local gastroenterologists available on at least a monthly basis. The availability of endoscopic procedures and gastroenterological services were not associated with CRC screening or with use of endoscopy as a screening method.

Conclusions: CRC screening among rural primary care patients is related to adequacy of physician CRC screening discussions but not access to endoscopic procedures. Efforts to improve CRC screening should focus on improving physician-patient discussions of CRC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kansas
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population*