A Survey of Skin Cancer Screening in the Primary Care Setting
A Comparison With Other Cancer Screenings
Jamie F. Altman, MD;
Susan A. Oliveria, ScD;
Paul J. Christos, MPH;
Allan C. Halpern, MD
Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:1022-1027.
Objective To determine primary care physicians' perceived importance and frequency of performance of skin cancer screening in comparison with other cancer screening examinations.
Design Descriptive survey study.
Participants Five thousand US family physicians and internal medicine specialists randomly selected from the Official American Board of Medical Specialists Directory of Board-Certified Medical Specialists.
Main Outcome Measures Self-reported importance and performance of cancer screening examinations.
Results Eligible physicians (1363 total: 814 family physicians and 549 internists) completed the survey with a response rate of 30%. Overall, 52% of respondents rated skin cancer screening as "extremely" important, compared with 79% for digital rectal examination, 88% for clinical breast examination, and 87% for Papanicolaou testing. Thirty-seven percent of physicians reported performing complete body skin examinations on 81% to 100% of patients, compared with digital rectal examination, for which 78% of physicians reported performing the examination on 81% to 100% of patients, or the clinical breast examination, for which 82% of physicians reported performing the examination on 81% to 100% of patients. A higher percentage of physicians in practice for more than 30 years ranked skin cancer screening as extremely important and reported a higher frequency of screening examinations. Physicians in a suburban practice setting reported performing skin examinations more often than those in urban or rural settings. Overall, the self-reported frequency of skin examination was strongly correlated with the physician's importance rating of skin cancer screening.
Conclusions A majority of primary care physicians rate skin cancer screening as extremely important. The reported importance of skin cancer screening and frequency of skin cancer examination among primary care physicians is significantly less than for other cancer examinations. This likely represents a multitude of factors, including logistic constraints and lack of consensus on the efficacy of skin cancer screening.
From the Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY.
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