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BMC Gastroenterol. 2005 Mar 8;5:10.

Persistent demographic differences in colorectal cancer screening utilization despite Medicare reimbursement.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Box 356424, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.



Colorectal cancer screening is widely recommended, but often under-utilized. In addition, significant demographic differences in screening utilization exist. Insurance coverage may be one factor influencing utilization of colorectal cancer screening tests.


We conducted a retrospective analysis of claims for outpatient services for Washington state Medicare beneficiaries in calendar year 2000. We determined the proportion of beneficiaries utilizing screening fecal occult blood tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or double contrast barium enema in the overall population and various demographic subgroups. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to determine the relative odds of screening in different demographic groups.


Approximately 9.2% of beneficiaries had fecal occult blood tests, 7.2% had any colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or barium enema (invasive) colon tests, and 3.5% had invasive tests for screening indications. Colonoscopy accounted for 41% of all invasive tests for screening indications. Women were more likely to receive fecal occult blood test screening (OR 1.18; 95%CI 1.15, 1.21) and less likely to receive invasive tests for screening indications than men (OR 0.80, 95%CI 0.77, 0.83). Whites were more likely than other racial groups to receive any type of screening. Rural residents were more likely than urban residents to have fecal occult blood tests (OR 1.20, 95%CI 1.17, 1.23) but less likely to receive invasive tests for screening indications (OR 0.89; 95%CI 0.85, 0.93).


Reported use of fecal occult blood testing remains modest. Overall use of the more invasive tests for screening indications remains essentially unchanged, but there has been a shift toward increased use of screening colonoscopy. Significant demographic differences in screening utilization persist despite consistent insurance coverage.

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