Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) can be largely prevented or effectively treated, yet about half of eligible Americans have not been screened. The purpose of this study was to examine patient and physician factors associated with documented CRC testing according to national guidelines.
Methods: Cross-sectional study where 511 randomly selected rural patients aged 55 to 80 years of 16 board-certified Iowa family physicians were enrolled in 2004. Patient survey and medical record information were linked with physician surveys. Predictors of CRC testing were examined using a regression procedure that accommodated random physician effects (2005-2006).
Results: Forty-six percent of patients were up-to-date with CRC testing in accordance with national guidelines. This percentage varied from 5% to 75% by physician (p < 0.0001). Of the patients who were up-to-date, 89% had colonoscopy, and 62% had symptoms prior to testing that could indicate CRC. The strongest univariate predictors other than symptoms were patient recollection of physician recommendation (odds ratio [OR] = 6.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.2-9.6) and physician documentation of recommendation (OR = 14.1, CI = 8.5-23.3). A multivariable regression model showed testing in accordance with guidelines significantly increased with government insurance (OR = 1.6, CI = 1.2-2.3), having a health maintenance visit in the preceding 26 months (OR = 2.4, CI = 1.4-4.1), family history of CRC (OR = 3.1, CI = 1.6-5.8), number of medical conditions (OR = 1.2 for each additional condition, CI = 1.1-1.3), high importance of screening to patient (OR = 2.6, CI = 1.5-4.5), patient satisfaction with doctor's discussions (OR = 3.3, CI = 2.2-4.8), physician trained in flexible sigmoidoscopy (OR = 2.3, CI = 1.6-3.4), and physician report of trying to follow American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines (OR = 1.7, CI = 1.2-2.5). After excluding patients who had symptoms prior to screening, most of the ORs in the logistic regression analysis increased except that the number of medical conditions and physician trying to follow ACS guidelines became nonsignificant.
Conclusions: Fewer than half of rural patients received CRC testing, and most of those tested had symptoms. Physician recommendations and the manner of presenting the recommendations greatly influenced whether patients were tested.