Risk assessment and clinical decision making for colorectal cancer screening

Health Expect. 2015 Oct;18(5):1327-38. doi: 10.1111/hex.12110. Epub 2013 Jul 30.


Background: Shared decision making (SDM) related to test preference has been advocated as a potentially effective strategy for increasing adherence to colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, yet primary care providers (PCPs) are often reluctant to comply with patient preferences if they differ from their own. Risk stratification advanced colorectal neoplasia (ACN) provides a rational strategy for reconciling these differences.

Objective: To assess the importance of risk stratification in PCP decision making related to test preference for average-risk patients and receptivity to use of an electronic risk assessment tool for ACN to facilitate SDM.

Design: Mixed methods, including qualitative key informant interviews and a cross-sectional survey.

Participants: PCPs at an urban, academic safety-net institution.

Main measures: Screening preferences, factors influencing patient recommendations and receptivity to use of a risk stratification tool.

Key results: Nine PCPs participated in interviews and 57 completed the survey. Despite an overwhelming preference for colonoscopy by 95% of respondents, patient risk (67%) and patient preferences (63%) were more influential in their decision making than patient comorbidities (31%; P < 0.001). Age was the single most influential risk factor (excluding family history), with <20% of respondents choosing factors other than age. Most respondents reported that they would be likely to use a risk stratification tool in their practice either 'often' (43%) or sometimes (53%).

Conclusions: Risk stratification was perceived to be important in clinical decision making, yet few providers considered risk factors other than age for average-risk patients. Providers were receptive to the use of a risk assessment tool for ACN when recommending an appropriate screening test for select patients.

Keywords: cancer screening; colorectal cancer; decision making; physician decision support; risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Grounded Theory
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups
  • Patient Participation*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*