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Not Enough Americans Getting Cancer Screening, CDC Study Reveals

Fewer Americans are getting the recommended cancer screenings that could play a critical role in ensuring proper diagnosis and timely treatments, according to the findings of a new study by federal researchers. 

In a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the latest edition of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers report that cancer screening rates are down for almost all types of screenings, with the exception of colorectal cancer. Colon cancer was the only type of screening that had an increase in screening rates during the study period.

CDC researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for 2000 through 2015. This focused on cancer screenings reported in 2015 among U.S. adults. It included screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers.

Overall, researchers noted there was an increase in colon cancer screening rates, but those rates were still well below national target levels set by the Healthy People 2020 initiative. Colon cancer screenings among men and women increased by 29%. However, only about 63% of women and 62% of men had a recent screening.

Other than colon cancer screenings, the number of Americans getting the recommended cancer screenings declined. This was especially true among people that don’t have health insurance.

Cervical cancer screenings, commonly known as pap tests, dropped by 4% from 2000 to 2015. Roughly 80% of women reported having a recent pap test.

Similarly, mammogram rates declined by 3%. About 72% of women reported having a recent mammogram.

Rates of prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests also dropped by 5%. Only 36% of men over 50 reported having a recent PSA.

Reduced screening rates is especially troubling considering breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers accounted for 40% of all new cancer diagnoses in 2013. They also accounted for 20% of cancer deaths.

Researchers indicate certain factors contribute to reduced cancer screenings. These include not having health insurance, not having recent contact with a doctor in the past year, and not having a usual source of health care. Decreased rates of cancer screenings were especially high among uninsured people.

The report emphasizes that public health efforts should be made to help reduce barriers for accessing medical care. Expanding insurance coverage is especially key. Researchers also recommend the use of electronic medical records with reminders for patients and doctors. Increasing providers who focus on the benefits of screening can also help urge patients to complete needed screenings.

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