Colorectal Cancer Screening: Practices and Opinions of Primary Care Physicians

Prev Med. 2004 Aug;39(2):279-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2004.03.037.


Background: The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC), in 2001, concluded that there is good evidence to include annual or biennial fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) and fair evidence to include flexible sigmoidoscopy in the periodic health examination of asymptomatic adults more than 50 years of age.

Methods: Mailed survey of Alberta primary care physicians to determine current colorectal cancer (CRC) screening practices, familiarity with the new guideline, and opinions about, and barriers to, screening average-risk patients.

Results: Response rate was 58.0% (n = 965). Less than half (41.9%) were familiar with the new Canadian guideline. The majority (74.7%) recommended that asymptomatic patients undergo screening; however, only 35.6% offered screening to at least 75% of average-risk patients. Few (9.4%) rated fecal occult blood as an "excellent or very good" screening test. Most (64.1%) physicians would choose colonoscopy if they themselves were to undergo screening. Concerns were raised about cost-effectiveness, inconsistencies of current recommendations, and resources.

Conclusion: Although supportive of colorectal cancer screening of average-risk patients, few physicians recommend screening for the majority of their patients. Clarification of inconsistencies between guidelines, resource issues, and the availability of efficacious screening tests is required for wider acceptance of the new Canadian guideline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires