Physicians' recommendations for colon cancer screening in women. Too much of a good thing?

Am J Prev Med. 1998 Oct;15(3):246-9. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00075-0.


Background: Expert groups support periodic colorectal cancer (CRC) screening for persons aged 50 and older but not for persons younger than 50. We were interested in community primary care physicians' recommendations to women for fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), flexible sigmoidoscopy (SIG), and colonoscopy (COL).

Methods: In a mailed survey of 1,292 community primary care physicians in North Carolina, we queried physicians regarding their recommendations to women for CRC screening.

Results: Analysis was performed on 508 respondents (39%). Recommendation for FOBT (96%) and SIG (69%) for women > 50 years old was high among all subgroups of physicians. Recommendation for women < 50 years old was high for FOBT (82%) but lower for SIG (28%). Overall, 19% of physicians recommended COL. Recommendation for FOBT, SIG, and COL varied by physician specialty, physician age, perceived patient demand, physician need for additional CRC screening information, practice size, and location.

Conclusions: Although increasing physician recommendation for CRC screening is important, primary care physicians report recommending earlier and more aggressive screening than that supported by national guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colonoscopy
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • United States