Primary care physicians can serve as both facilitators and barriers to cancer screening, particularly for under-screened groups such as immigrant patients. The objective of this study was to inform physician-targeted interventions by identifying primary care physician characteristics associated with cancer screening for their eligible patients, for their eligible immigrant patients, and for foreign-trained physicians, for their eligible immigrant patients from the same world region. A population-based retrospective cohort study was performed, looking back 3 years from 31 December 2010. The study was performed in urban primary care practices in Ontario, Canada's largest province. A total of 6303 physicians serving 1,156,627 women eligible for breast cancer screening, 2,730,380 women eligible for cervical screening, and 2,260,569 patients eligible for colorectal screening participated. Appropriate breast screening was defined as at least one mammogram in the previous 2 years, appropriate cervical screening was defined as at least one Pap test in the previous 3 years, and appropriate colorectal screening as at least one fecal occult blood test in the previous 2 years or at least one colonoscopy or barium enema in the previous 10 years. Just fewer than 40% of physicians were female, and 26.1% were foreign trained. In multivariable analyses, physicians who attended medical schools in the Caribbean/Latin America, the Middle East/North Africa, South Asia, and Western Europe were less likely to screen their patients than Canadian graduates. South Asian-trained physicians were significantly less likely to screen South Asian women for cervical cancer than other foreign-trained physicians who were seeing region-congruent patients (adjusted odds ratio: 0.56 [95% confidence interval 0.32-0.98] versus physicians from the USA, Australia and New Zealand). South Asian patients were the most vulnerable to under-screening, and decreasing patient income quintile was consistently associated with lower likelihood of screening, although less so for immigrant patients. This study highlights certain physician characteristics that are associated with cancer screening for eligible patients, including immigrant patients, and that should be considered when designing physician-targeted interventions. We have also highlighted an ethnic community, South Asians, which requires particular attention, both among its patients and its primary care providers. Future research should further explore the reasons for these findings.
Keywords: Cancer screening; immigrant health; primary care; socioeconomic status.
© 2014 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.