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Colorectal cancer screening by general practitioners: Comparison with national guidelines

Olynyk, J.K., Aquilia, S., Platell, C.F., Fletcher, D.R., Henderson, S. and Dickinson, J.A. (1998) Colorectal cancer screening by general practitioners: Comparison with national guidelines. Medical Journal of Australia, 168 (7). pp. 331-334.


To determine whether general practitioners (GPs) had received Australian guidelines on early detection, screening and surveillance for colorectal cancer or rectal bleeding, and whether their reported practice conformed with these guidelines.

Cross-sectional postal survey of self-reported practice.

213 GPs in practice in the southern metropolitan area of Perth, Western Australia, were randomly selected from the Fremantle Regional Division of General Practice database and surveyed in March 1997.

Replies were received from 155 (73%) of the GPs, and 110 reported receiving guidelines (from the Australian Gastroenterology Institute [AGI], 44; Gut Foundation of Australia [GFA], 40; others, 6; and not specified, 20). GPs who reported receiving guidelines were significantly more likely to screen for colorectal cancer (99/110; 90%) than those who reported not receiving guidelines (33/45; 73%) (P = 0.008). The commonest method to investigate people with identifiable risk factors for colorectal cancer was colonoscopy. Reported screening frequencies in asymptomatic patients with above-average risk (family history of colorectal cancer or past history of adenomatous polyps or colorectal cancer) were significantly higher than recommended by AGI and GFA guidelines (P < 0.05). Up to 24% of GPs investigated altered bowel habit or bleeding per rectum with faecal occult blood testing.

Most GPs report having received guidelines. Reported screening frequency was higher than recommended for most above-average-risk patients, which will result in excessive consumption of resources without benefits for cancer prevention.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Australasian Medical Publishing Company
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