Open Access Open Badges Research article

Knowledge and attitudes of primary health care physicians and nurses with regard to population screening for colorectal cancer in Balearic Islands and Barcelona

Maria Ramos1*, Magdalena Esteva2, Jesús Almeda345, Elena Cabeza1, Diana Puente4, Rosa Saladich3, Albert Boada3 and Maria Llagostera3

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Department, Balearic Islands Health Department, Spain

2 Mallorca Primary Health Care Service, Balearic Island Health Service, Spain

3 Costa de Ponent Primary Health Care Department, Catalonian Health Institut, Barcelona, Spain

4 IDIAP-Jordi Gol, Barcelona, Spain

5 CIBER, Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Spain

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:500  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-500

Published: 20 September 2010



Primary health care (PHC) professionals play a key role in population screening of colorectal cancer. The purposes of the study are: to assess knowledge and attitudes among PHC professionals with regard to colorectal cancer screening, as well as the factors that determine their support for such screening.


Questionnaire-based survey of PHC physicians and nurses in the Balearic Islands and in a part of the metropolitan area of Barcelona.


We collected 1,219 questionnaires. About 84% of all professionals believe that screening for colorectal cancer by fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is effective. Around 68% would recommend to their clients a colorectal cancer screening program based on FOBT and colonoscopy. About 31% are reluctant or do not know. Professionals perceive the fear of undergoing a colonoscopy as the main obstacle in getting patients to participate, and the invasive nature of this test is the main reason behind their resistance to this program. The main barriers to support the screening program among PHC professionals are lack of knowledge (nurses) and lack of time (physicians). On multivariate analysis, the factors associated with reluctance to recommend colorectal cancer screening were: believing that FOBT has poor sensitivity and is complicated; that colonoscopy is an invasive procedure; that a lack of perceived benefit could discourage client participation; that only a minority of clients would participate; thinking that clients are fed up with screening tests and being unaware if they should be offered something to ensure their participation in the programme.


Two in every three PHC professionals would support a population screening program for colorectal cancer screening. Factors associated with reluctance to recommend it were related with screening tests characteristics as sensitivity and complexity of FOBT, and also invasive feature of colonoscopy. Other factors were related with patients' believes.