Background: An audit of tumour marker requests was carried out in Northern Ireland. The aims were to establish the extent of inappropriate requesting, to effect change in request practice if required, and to standardize laboratory reports for tumour markers.
Methods: A baseline audit was conducted to investigate the appropriateness of tumour marker requesting patterns in Northern Ireland. Information booklets containing guidelines for tumour markers were then distributed to all clinicians and a post-intervention audit was carried out.
Results: At baseline, 80% of requests for tumour markers were appropriate for the source of the tumour; however, 54% of clinicians used tumour markers to screen for malignancy and there was a low index of suspicion in 35% of these. Requests for more than two tumour markers were received for 5% of request forms. The post-intervention survey showed no change in requesting practice. Comments were returned by requestors for 55% of questionnaires. They appeared to be appropriate in 72% of cases.
Conclusions: There is a low level of inappropriate requesting of tumour markers in Northern Ireland. Audit and feedback combined with circulation of guidelines were unsuccessful interventions in improving the appropriateness of request practice for these tests.