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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2018 Nov;27(11):1335-1341. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2018.6947. Epub 2018 Aug 10.

Physician Nonprofessional Cancer Experience and Ovarian Cancer Screening Practices: Results from a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians.

Author information

1 Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado.
2 Division of Health Informatics and Surveillance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , Atlanta, Georgia .
3 Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washingon.
4 Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , Atlanta, Georgia .



Routine ovarian cancer screening is ineffective; therefore, no professional organization recommends this screening in asymptomatic patients. However, many physicians have recommended screening, exposing patients to unnecessary risk. Little research exists on how nonprofessional experience with cancer influences physicians' screening practices. This study examines the association between physicians' nonprofessional experience with cancer and reported adherence to ovarian cancer screening guidelines.


A mail questionnaire with an annual examination vignette and questions about cancer screening recommendations was sent to a random sample of 3,200 U.S. family physicians, general internists, and obstetrician-gynecologists. This analysis included 497 physicians who received a vignette of a woman at average ovarian cancer risk and weighted results to represent these physician groups nationally. The outcome measure was adherence to ovarian cancer screening guidelines. Stepwise multivariate logistic regression estimated adjusted risk ratios for guideline adherence.


In unadjusted analyses, 86.0% of physicians without nonprofessional cancer experience reported adherence to ovarian cancer screening guidelines compared with 69.2% of physicians with their own history of cancer, or a family member or close friend/coworker with cancer (pā€‰=ā€‰0.0045). In adjusted analyses, physicians with cancer themselves or in a family member or close friend/coworker were 0.82 times less likely (CI: 0.73-0.92) to report adhering to ovarian cancer screening recommendations than those without nonprofessional cancer experience.


Despite recommendations to the contrary, many physicians reported recommending ovarian cancer screening in low-risk women. Physicians with nonprofessional cancer experience were more likely to report offering or ordering nonrecommended screening than physicians without this experience.


cancer screening; guideline adherence; ovarian neoplasms; physician cancer experience; survey


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