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Prev Chronic Dis. 2011 Sep;8(5):A112. Epub 2011 Aug 15.

Physician visits and colorectal cancer testing among Medicare enrollees in North Carolina and South Carolina, 2005.

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  • 1University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Campus Box 7469, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7469, USA.



Many Medicare enrollees do not receive colorectal cancer tests at recommended intervals despite having Medicare screening coverage. Little is known about the physician visits of Medicare enrollees who are untested. Our study objective was to evaluate physician visits of enrollees who lack appropriate testing to identify opportunities to increase colorectal cancer testing.


We used North Carolina and South Carolina Medicare data to compare type and frequency of physician visits for Medicare enrollees with and without a colorectal cancer test in 2005. Type of physician visit was defined by the physician specialty as primary care, mixed specialty (more than 1 specialty, 1 of which was primary care), and nonprimary care. We used multivariate modeling to assess the influence of type and frequency of physician visits on colorectal cancer testing.


Approximately half (46.5%) of enrollees lacked appropriate colorectal cancer testing. Among the untested group, 19.8% had no physician visits in 2005. Enrollees with primary care visits were more likely to be tested than those without a primary care visit. Many enrollees who had primary care visits remained untested. Enrollees with visits to all physician types had a greater likelihood of having colorectal cancer testing.


We identified 3 categories of Medicare enrollees without appropriate colorectal cancer testing: those with no visits, those who see primary care physicians only, and those with multiple visits to physicians with primary and nonprimary care specialties. Different strategies are needed for each category to increase colorectal cancer testing in the Medicare population.

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