Physicians play an important role in recommending and doing cancer screening for their patients. In 1991, the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey to determine the counseling and referral practices of primary care physicians practicing in North Carolina. Physicians were asked to report the percentage of patients in various age groups that they recommended receive a clinical breast examination, referral for mammography screening, or a Pap test and at what intervals they recommended each study. They were also asked their perceived barriers to cervical cancer screening. Obstetrician-gynecologists recommended annual Pap smear screening more frequently than did physicians in other specialties for patients of all ages. For mammography, variation existed for recommended screening intervals for all specialties by patient age (35 to 39 years, 40 to 49 years, 50 to 64 years, and over age 65). Recommendations for mammography also differed significantly according to physicians' age and sex. The medical community and the public need a consistent and clear message to promote effective screening maneuvers.
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