Rural physicians' understanding of the state-of-the-art in breast, colon and rectum cancer treatment.

  • Hatzell T
  • Ricketts T
  • Tropman S
  • Sarah Hawley
  • Paskett E
  • Cooper MR

OBJECTIVES: This study measured the impact of an educational intervention aimed at heightening rural physicians' awareness of state-of-the-art breast and colorectal cancer therapies. METHODS: Pre- and post-intervention mailed surveys were administered to all primary-care physicians and referring physicians in the seven-county intervention region in North Carolina (NC) and a comparison region in South Carolina (SC). RESULTS: The survey revealed few significant changes in physicians' perspectives that could be attributed to the intervention. Physicians erroneously stated that lumpectomy without follow-up radiation was acceptable for treating breast cancer (55%), failed to indicate that adjuvant therapy was an accepted practice for treating Stage I breast cancer (67%), failed to acknowledge chemotherapy as experimental for Dukes' B colon cancer patients (70%), and failed to recognize a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation as a standard treatment for rectal cancer (25%). CONCLUSIONS: The low levels of awareness of National Cancer Institute guidelines were reflected in low breast-sparing surgery rates for women living in the intervention region. Stronger consensus on appropriate cancer treatments is needed throughout the medical community in order to reduce undesired variation in rural, community-based cancer care.

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