Cancer Screening Tests Widely Underused in U.S.: CDC

Federal health officials warn that a large number of adults in the United States are not receiving recommended cancer screening tests, indicating that lives could be saved if more screenings were provided for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer.

According to a report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, the numbers of people who received these screenings in 2013 has either falling behind previous rates or did not improve at all.

Among adults in the recommended age groups for cancer screenings, researchers found one in five women reported not being up-to-date with cervical cancer screenings. One in four women reported not being up to date with breast cancer screenings and two in five adults reported not being up-to-date with colorectal cancer screenings.

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Researchers reviewed data from the National Health Interview Survey 2013. This is used to monitor progress toward the Healthy People 2020 goals for cancer screening. The goals are based on the most recent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.

The number of people potentially saved from death or spared from preventable cancers by receiving cancer screenings can increase if more people receive the needed tests.

Colorectal cancer testing was unchanged in 2013 compared to 2010. Pap test rates for women ages 21 to 65 years old was lower than the rates in 2000 and the number of mammography screenings remained stagnant, showing little change from previous years.

Screening data for 2013 showed 58% of adults ages 50 to 75 years reported being screened for colorectal cancer.

“It is concerning to see a stall in colorectal cancer screening rates,” said Lisa C. Richardson, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “We must find new ways to make people and providers aware that getting tested for colorectal cancer could prevent cancer and save their lives.

Approximately 73% of women age 50 to 74 had a mammogram and 80% of women 21 to 65 had a pap test. Researchers said all percentages were below the Healthy People 2020 targets.

Adults without insurance or a usual source of healthcare generally had the lowest screening test use. Fewer than one-quarter of adults in these groups reported recent colorectal cancer screening compared with more than 60% of adults with private insurance or a usual source of healthcare.

The proportion in the highest education and income groups who were screened for breast cancer exceeded the Healthy People 2020 target. The proportion of people 65 to 75 years of age who were screened for colorectal cancer was also near the target goal.

Healthy People 2020 is a part of the federal government’s Healthy People program that sets 10-year objectives for improving the health of Americans. Over the past three decades the program has established benchmarks and monitored progress.

The Healthy People 2020 goals launched in 2010 and aim to improve national awareness and understanding of health, disease and disability and improve screening rates.


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