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A National Survey of Primary Care Physicians' Methods for Screening for Fecal Occult Blood

Objective: To examine how FOBT and follow-up are conducted in community practice across the United States.

Results: Although screening guidelines recommend home tests, 32.5% (95% CI, 29.8% to 35.3%) of physicians used only the less accurate method of single-sample in-office testing; another 41.2% (CI, 38.3% to 44.0%) used both types of test. Follow-up of positive test results showed considerable nonadherence to guidelines, with 29.7% (CI, 27.1% to 32.4%) of physicians recommending repeating FOBT. Furthermore, sigmoidoscopy, rather than total colon examination, was commonly recommended to work up abnormal findings. Nearly one third of adults who reported having FOBT said they had only an in-office test, and nearly one third of those who reported abnormal FOBT results reported no follow-up diagnostic procedures.

Conclusions: Mortality reductions demonstrated with FOBT in clinical trials may not be realized in community practice because of the common use of in-office tests and inappropriate follow-up of positive results. Education of providers and system-level interventions are needed to improve the quality of screening implementation.

Reference: Nadel MR, Shapiro JA, Klabunde CN, Seeff LC, Uhler R, Smith RA, Ransohoff DF. A national survey of primary care physicians' methods for screening for fecal occult blood. Ann Intern Med 2005 Jan 18;142(2):86-94. [View Abstract]

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Last Modified: 11 Apr 2014