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CDC report highlights gaps in colorectal cancer screening

Wednesday November 6, 2013
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Of adults ages 50 to 75, 27.7% have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, according to a report by the CDC.

Despite research that shows colorectal cancer screening tests saves lives, screening rates remain too low, the CDC stated in a report appearing in the November issue of Vital Signs. Of the age group studied, 65.1% were up to date with colorectal screening.

“There are more than 20 million adults in this country who haven’t had any recommended screening for colorectal cancer and who may therefore get cancer and die from a preventable tragedy,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Screening for colorectal cancer is effective and can save your life.”

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer among men and women in the U.S., after lung cancer, according to the CDC. Screening tests can prevent cancer or detect it at an early stage at which treatment can be highly effective.

Adults ages 50 years and older should get tested with either fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test performed at home every year; flexible sigmoidoscopy performed every five years, in combination with FOBT or FIT performed every three years; or colonoscopy performed every 10 years.

People are not always offered a choice of colorectal cancer tests despite studies showing people who are able to choose the test they prefer are more likely to get screening, according to the CDC.

CDC researchers reviewed colorectal cancer screening data from the CDC’s 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to estimate the percentage of people ages 50 to 75 who reported getting screened as recommended by type of test.

They found that among adults who were up to date with their screening, colonoscopy was by far the most common screening test, at 61.7% Use of the other USPSTF-recommended tests was much lower, with 10.4% using fecal occult blood testing and less than 1% using flexible sigmoidoscopy in combination with FOBT/FIT.

Blacks and whites had similar screening rates, but a higher percentage of blacks across all income and education levels used FOBT.

The authors noted that increasing use of all tests may increase screening rates. Furthermore, research shows that more people may get tested if healthcare providers use an organized, population-based approach to identify people who need to be screened; contact them at their home or community setting; advise them of each test; and carefully monitor to make sure they complete their test.

Through the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have access to health coverage and preventive services such as colorectal cancer screening tests, with no cost-sharing. Visit www.healthcare.gov or call 800-318-2596 (TTY/TDD 1-855-889-4325) to learn more.

Report: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm62e1105a1.htm

Colorectal cancer prevention information: www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal


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