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Medical News Today: CDC: many adults failing to undergo recommended cancer screening

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that many adults in the US are failing to undergo the recommended screening tests for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers.
A woman having a mammography
Around 1 in 4 women in the US are not up-to-date with breast cancer screening, according to the report.

Published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the data shows that in 2013, screening rates for these cancers either dropped below past rates or did not improve, demonstrating slow progression toward the Healthy People 2020 targets.

To reach their findings, the report authors reviewed data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) involving a nationally representative sample of the US population.

Specifically, the authors assessed screening rates for colorectal, breast and cervical cancers, which were defined according to screening guidelines set by US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

The USPSTF guidelines recommend routine screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 50-75 years using either fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Women aged 21-65 without hysterectomy should be screened for cervical cancer via a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every 3 years, while women aged 50-74 are recommended to undergo screening for breast cancer via mammography every 2 years.

At least a fifth of adults not up-to-date with cancer screening

Among women aged 21-65, the results revealed that 80.7% reported a recent Pap test for cervical cancer, while 72.6% of women aged 50-74 reported undergoing a recent mammography for breast cancer. These figures are well below the Healthy People 2020 cancer screening targets of 93% for cervical cancer and 81.1% for breast cancer.

Among adults aged 50-75, 58.2% reported undergoing recent screening tests for colorectal cancer – well below the Healthy People 2020 target of 70.5%.

The results of the analysis mean that around 1 in 5 women are not up-to-date with cervical cancer screening, 1 in 4 women are not up-to-date with breast cancer screening, and 2 in 5 adults are not up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening.

While screening rates for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers increased every year between 2000 and 2010, the authors say there has been no progress since. “Mammography use remained essentially stable, Pap test use declined, and colorectal cancer test use was essentially unchanged,” they note.

Cancer screening was lowest among adults without medical insurance or a standard source of care, according to the results. For example, while 60% of adults aged 50-75 with private medical insurance underwent colorectal cancer screening, such screening was only reported in 23.5% of those without insurance and in 17.8% without a standard source of care.

The authors did identify some positive statistics. The highest rate of breast cancer screening was identified among women with the highest education and income, with these women exceeding the Healthy People 2020 target. What is more, adults aged 65-75 were near the target for colorectal cancer screening.

Commenting on their findings, the authors say:

“Although some demographic subgroups attained targets, screening use overall was below the targets with no improvements from 2010 to 2013 in breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer screening use. Cervical cancer screening declined from 2010 to 2013. Increased efforts are needed to achieve targets and reduce screening disparities.”

Medical News Today recently reported on a study by researchers from University College London in the UK, who detailed a new screening method for ovarian cancer that they say could double detection rates.

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