Cancer prevention practices and continuing education needs of primary care physicians

Mary E. Costanza, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Nancy E. Hoople
Victoria P. Gaw, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Anne M. Stoddard, New England Research Institutes

Document Type Article


We surveyed 1,500 primary care physicians in Massachusetts regarding their current attitudes and practices, as well as their interests and preferences in regard to a continuing education course, in cancer prevention and screening. Thirty-three percent (n = 488) of physicians returned questionnaires, with equal distribution among internists, family practitioners, and gynecologists. Our findings are based on physicians' self-report: 80%-92% of physicians routinely perform or order breast, cervical, skin, prostate, and colon examinations (with the exception of proctoscopy) for asymptomatic patients 50 years of age and older. Perceived barriers reported were as follows: for mammography, patient age older than 75; for sigmoidoscopy, cost; for counseling, lack of educational materials. Ninety-one percent of physicians rated a comprehensive course on cancer detection and prevention emphasizing practical matters and offering opportunity to upgrade clinical skills in physical exam and in counseling as somewhat to very useful. Specific topic preferences varied by specialty, but first preference for all three primary care groups was a course in improving their office management of cancer prevention and screening activities. Most appealing to practitioners was a one-day course leading to accreditation in screening and prevention and to reduction in malpractice premiums.