They can save your life, or at the least offer peace of mind. Plus, you don’t pay for them. Yet Americans are still often skipping screening tests for breast, cervical and colon cancer, a new government survey finds.
More than a quarter of women eligible for mammograms are not getting them on time, nearly 20 percent are missing Pap smears and fewer than 60 percent of adults have had a recent colon cancer screening, the survey finds.
That’s despite campaigns meant to make people aware of these tests, and changes in the law that require health insurance companies to pay fully for cancer screening with no co-pay.
“It is concerning to see a stall in colorectal cancer screening rates,” Dr. Lisa Richardson, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in a statement.
“It is concerning to see a stall in colorectal cancer screening rates."
“We must find new ways to make people and providers aware that getting tested for colorectal cancer could prevent cancer and save their lives.”
Colon cancer rates have been going down steadily in the population as a whole. Colonoscopies are responsible for a lot of this, as they allow doctors to remove pre-cancerous growths called polyps before they can ever become cancer.
Still, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, after lung cancer. It kills 50,000 people a year and is diagnosed in more than 136,000, according to the American Cancer Society.
The researchers used the National Health Interview Survey 2013, which is used to monitor progress toward the federal government’s goals for cancer screening based on the most recent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.
They found that 58.2 percent of adults aged 50 to 75 had been screened for colorectal cancer; 72.6 percent of women aged 50 to 74 had undergone a mammogram in the past two years and and 80.7 percent of women age 21 to 65 had been given a Pap test in the past three years.
“Regular breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening with timely and appropriate follow-up and treatment reduces deaths from these cancers,” the researchers wrote in CDC’s weekly report on disease and death.
Not surprisingly, people without insurance or a usual source of healthcare were the least likely to have been screened recently.
“Regular breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening with timely and appropriate follow-up and treatment reduces deaths from these cancers."
Income and insurance coverage really mattered when it came to getting a mammogram. Only 38 percent of women without health insurance and 30 percent of women without a usual source of care had received a recent mammogram.
Other studies have also shown women are missing Pap smears or other cervical cancer tests.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says in its updated mammography recommendations that women over 50 should get a mammogram every other year. Women 40 to 49 should decide what they want, based on their health history, and it's not clear if women over 75 should bother with mammograms.
Breast cancer is a leading killer of U.S. women. Every year, it's diagnosed in 200,000 women and a few men, and kills around 40,000. More than 12,000 American women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, and more than 4,000 will die of it.