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Eur J Gen Pract. 2011 Dec;17(4):221-8. doi: 10.3109/13814788.2011.601412. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

The role of physician reminders in faecal occult blood testing for colorectal cancer screening.

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  • 1Department of Colorectal Surgery, Worthing Hospital, Worthing, West Sussex, UK.



Colorectal cancer screening in the form of faecal occult blood (FOB) testing can significantly reduce the burden of this disease and has been used as early as the 1970s. Effective involvement of GPs along with reminding physicians prior to seeing a patient may improve uptake.


This article is a systematic review of published literature examining the uptake of FOB testing after physician reminders as part of the colorectal cancer screening process.


Electronic databases were searched from January 1975 to October 2010. All studies comparing physician reminders (Rem) with controls (NRem) were identified. A meta-analysis was performed to obtain a summary outcome.


Five comparative studies involving 25 287 patients were analyzed. There were 12 641 patients were in the Rem and 12 646 in the NRem group. All five studies obtained a higher percentage uptake when physician reminders were given. However, in only two of the studies were the percentage uptake significantly higher. There was significant heterogeneity among trials (I2 = 95%). The combined increase in FOB test uptake was not statistically significant (random effects model: risk difference = 6.6%, 95% CI: -2-14.7%; z = 1.59, P = 0.112).


Reminding physicians about those patients due for FOB testing may not improve the effectiveness of a colorectal cancer screening programme. Further studies are required and should focus on areas where there is a lower baseline uptake and areas with high levels of deprivation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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