OBJECTIVE: Implementation of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening with widely available techniques can result in a significant reduction in CRC-related mortality. Clinical practice paradigms are often ingrained in physicians during residency. We, therefore, investigated both compliance and perceived obstacles to CRC screening in the practices of physicians-in-training. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis of medical records of patients who were receiving their primary care in the internal medicine resident clinics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and were at average risk for CRC. In addition to demographics, data on the use of screening mammography, Pap smear, cholesterol, fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), and flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) were collected. A questionnaire was also distributed to all internal medicine residents to assess their CRC screening knowledge and perceived screening compliance. RESULTS: One hundred eight patient charts were reviewed. The percentage of patients appropriately screened for each test was as follows: mammography 66%, Pap smear 65%, cholesterol 53%, FOBT 13%, and FS 16%. Residents dramatically overestimated their perceived FS and FOBT screening rates, 78% and 88%, respectively. Most residents identified barriers to FS screening. Although rudimentary CRC screening knowledge appeared adequate, a number of knowledge-based deficiencies were identified. CONCLUSIONS: Internal medicine residents at our institution demonstrate poor CRC screening compliance especially when compared with other health care maintenance interventions. This cannot be entirely accounted for by inadequate knowledge; discrepancy between the perceived and actual implementation of CRC screening may be important. Efforts to improve screening compliance should include a focus on physicians-in-training.
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