Med/Psych Update

High-value intervention: Providing colorectal cancer screening

Author and Disclosure Information



  • avoids the yearly adherence to a screening program that is needed with stool cards alone
  • does not rely on patients collecting and returning stool kits for processing.

A potential challenge for patients with limited social support is the requirement to have someone accompany the patient on the day of colonoscopy.

Take steps to improve the screening rate. In addition to specific recommendations based on symptom severity, there are systems-level interventions that should be considered to improve the screening rate. These include:

  • addressing transportation issues that are a barrier to screening
  • considering the use of health navigators or peer advocates to help guide patients through the sometimes complex systems of care.

A more comprehensive systems-level intervention for mental health clinics that work primarily with persistent and severe mentally ill populations might include employing a care coordinator to organize referrals to primary care or even exploring reverse integration. In reverse integration, primary care providers co-locate within the mental health clinic, (1) allowing for “one-stop shopping” of mental health and primary care needs and (2) facilitating collaboration and shared treatment planning between primary care and mental health for complex patients.

Bottom Line

Screening tests for colorectal cancer (except colonoscopy) are useful for the asymptomatic stage only. Stool-based studies, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy are the best studied screening options, and vary in recommended screening intervals. The specific screening modality to recommend should (1) be individualized and (2) take into account patient preference, likelihood of adherence to the schedule, and how well psychiatric symptoms are controlled.

Related Resources

  • American Cancer Society.
  • National Cancer Institute. Colorectal cancer–patient version.


Recommended Reading

Pimavanserin for psychosis in patients with Parkinson’s disease
MDedge Psychiatry
Pregnant nearly a year? The patient has symptoms but evidence is lacking
MDedge Psychiatry
Pseudobulbar affect: When patients laugh or cry, but don’t know why
MDedge Psychiatry
Take steps to relieve ataxia in patients with alcohol use disorder
MDedge Psychiatry
Ataxia due to alcohol abuse
MDedge Psychiatry