Objective: To assess whether the specialty of a patient's primary care physician or being part of a gatekeeper plan influence breast and cervical cancer screening.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of women in a national sample. For mammography, we studied women aged 40 and above, and for Papanicolaou (Pap) smear, women aged 18-65 years. Screening mammography or Pap smear within the previous two years was measured by patient self-report. The key independent variables were primary care physician specialty and whether the patient had a gatekeeper.
Results: Among women seen by a family practice physician, there was a higher probability of being screened if the patient was part of a gatekeeper plan than if the patient was not part of a gatekeeper plan: mammography (OR = 1.35; 95% CI = 1.20-1.52) and Pap smear (OR = 1.60; 95% CI = 1.34-1.91). Among women seen by an internal medicine physician, cancer screening did not vary significantly by gatekeeper status.
Conclusions: The impact of gatekeeper plans upon cancer screening varies according to the primary care physician's specialty. Policy interventions designed to increase cancer screening should take into account different responses to gatekeeper requirements among different types of providers.