CDC: Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates Still Low

According to a new Vital Signs report from the CDC, about 1 in 3 adults aged 50–75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

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Screening tests can prevent cancer or detect it at an early stage, when treatment can be highly effective. It is recommended that adults aged >50 years should get tested with one or a combination of the following screening tests:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, with FOBT/FIT every 3 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years

Researchers reviewed colorectal cancer screening data from CDC’s 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to estimate the percentage of people aged 50–75 years who reported getting screened as recommended by type of test. Major findings included:

  • Colonoscopy was by far the most common screening test (62%); use of the other recommended tests was much lower: FOBT (10%), and flexible sigmoidoscopy in combination with FOBT/FIT (<1 %)
  • The highest percentage of adults who were up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening was in Massachusetts (76%)
  • The percentage of people screened for colorectal cancer using the FOBT within one year was more than twice as high in California (20%) when compared with most states
  • Blacks and whites had similar screening rates, but a higher percentage of blacks across all income and education levels used FOBT

Research shows that more people may get tested if healthcare providers used an organized 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 patients will have access to health coverage and preventive services like colorectal cancer screening tests, which will be available at no additional cost. 

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