Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. It is also among the most common types of cancer cited in diagnosis-related malpractice claims naming CRICO-insured physicians.

Common causal factors underlying missed or delayed colorectal cancer diagnoses include:

  • a physician—often due to a narrow diagnostic focus—fails to order diagnostic testing or provide ongoing monitoring of a patient who exhibits worrisome symptoms, including rectal bleeding, or for signs such as unexplained iron deficiency anemia;
  • a physician whose practice fails to track compliance with and results from ordered screening tests—including stool kits, flexible sigmoidoscopies, and colonoscopies;
  • a primary care provider (PCP) fails to follow colorectal cancer screening guidelines;
  • miscommunication between PCP, specialist, and patient regarding poor bowel preparation/limited evaluation; and
  • inadequate coordination of ongoing screening, surveillance, or treatment.

To address these risk issues, CRICO convened a task force of primary care providers and gastroenterologists to develop a colorectal cancer decision support tool to help clinicians:

  1. Assess patients for colorectal cancer risk factors, particularly family history.
  2. Stratify a patient’s risk for colon cancer into one of three groups:
    • Average Risk Patients who are asymptomatic, over age 50, with no personal or family history of colorectal cancer or adenomas
    • Moderate Risk Patients who have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomas16-18
    • High Risk Patients who have a genetic colorectal cancer syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.19-26
  3. Offer appropriate screening modalities according to patient risk and patient preference.27-30
  4. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of each selected screening modality.27-30
  5. Confirm that patients adequately complete required bowel cleanouts.31

Prevention and Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer is based on national colorectal cancer screening and clinical practice guidelines and is a decision-support tool which should not be construed as a standard of care. Health care providers are advised to consider differences in screening recommendations among peer organizations (e.g., the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force, and the American Cancer Society).28–30, 32–40

More CRICO Guidelines or Algorithms

CRICO decision support tools.
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