The differential diagnostic assignment of patients with hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer among patients with non-familial colorectal carcinoma is difficult but essential to provide early sufficient cancer screening. In order to analyze the actual situation of outpatients, 36 gastroenterologists in private practice have been interviewed with respect to their experience concerning outpatients. The interview data revealed that care for patients with colorectal cancer is a fundamental component of their work. A third of the gastroenterologists deal with patients suffering from colorectal cancer before 45 years of age. Yet these gastroenterologists did not report a single HNPCC patient. Especially gastroenterologists with long lasting experience in private practice did not mention HNPCC patients at all. These results may indicate that identifying the cases at risk for HNPCC is difficult in daily routine work. The possibility of genetic diagnostics (and counselling) should be taken into consideration in individual cases. In consequence comprehensive screening programs can be initiated for patients and their families.
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