The Good News on Cancer Screening Rates Revealed

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An early cancer diagnosis is key to more successful treatmentIn the past decade, a new study has uncovered that the rate of cancer screenings has dropped across the United States. That means there are fewer people seeking the best way to fight cancer, which is to spot it as early as possible.

The good news is that getting earlier diagnoses and better treatments has meant the number of cancer survivors has risen. Cancer, of course, is still one of the most prominent chronic diseases. In 2011, 570,000 Americans died of cancer.

GOOD NEWS: Cancer survivors growing older.

The researchers believe there is a big need for increased effort in preventing cancer to begin with. Screening is one of the most important ways we can do this, helping lower cancer’s overall burden on society. Yet the research shows that cancer screening has declined, meaning “severe implications” for society.

The study focused  on colorectal cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer, in particular. It included nearly 175,000 people, of whom about 120,000 represented the general population. That general public did not meet government recommendations for cancer screenings for any of them except for colorectal cancer. It turns out that about 54% of the general public underwent colorectal screenings, exceeding the government’s 50% goal.

Cancer survivors are at an increased risk of getting another tumor. Not surprisingly, they had higher screening rates and underwent the recommended cancer screenings for all types, except cervical cancer (which dropped to 78% over the past decade). Still, even among survivors, there was a decline among those who sought screenings in the past three years.

Interestingly, the study found that white-collar workers were more likely to get a cancer screening than blue-collar workers. Unfortunately, for everyone, a factor in the overall decline is disagreement between cancer experts over screening guidelines. Some think we do it too much; others think it’s not enough.

Certainly, screening for cancer is never a bad thing. And it is quite important that a person with genetic links to cancer or who engages in behavior that increases their risk (smoking) gets the recommended screening. It could literally save your life.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
The Good News on Cancer Screening Rates Revealed
Clarke, T., et al., “Trends in adherence to recommended cancer screening: the US population and working cancer survivors,” Front. Oncol., December 27, 2012.