Health Magazine

Mammograms Are Not the Only Screenings We Need

Posted on the 24 October 2012 by Jean Campbell

Once we’ve had breast cancer, most of us are ever watchful about our breast health, sometimes to the exclusion of, or delaying of other health care screenings.

screeningsAccording to a study by Centers for Disease Control, (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute, the percentage of Americans who have been screened for cancer remains below national targets. There continues to be  significant disparities between racial and ethnic groups.

Healthy People 2020 sets national goals for improving the health of all Americans, including the use of screening tests recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) for breast, cervical, and colorectal (colon) cancers. The USPSTF recommends that—

  • Women who are 50 to 74 years old should be screened for breast cancer with a mammogram every two years. Note: Many health care organizations and physicians take exception to the USPSTF recommendation of every two years and encourage women in this age group to be screened annually.
  • Women who are 21 to 65 years old should be screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test at least every three years, regardless of sexual activity.
  • Men and women who are 50 to 75 years old should be screened for colorectal cancer in one of the following three ways—
    • A high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year.
    • Sigmoidoscopy every five years and a high-sensitivity FOBT every three years.
    • A colonoscopy every 10 years.

Rates of Screenings

Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, the study found the following overall screening rates in 2010:

  • The breast cancer screening rate was 72.4%, which is below the Healthy People 2020 target of 81%.
  • The cervical cancer screening rate was 83%, which is below the target of 93%.
  • The colorectal cancer screening was 58.6%, which is below the target of 70.5%.

Screening rates were lower among Asians (64.1% for breast cancer, 75.4% for cervical cancer, and 46.9% for colorectal cancer) compared with other groups, and rates varied among Asian subgroups (Chinese, Filipino, and other Asian).

Hispanics were less likely to be screened than non-Hispanics (69.7% for breast cancer, 78.7% for cervical cancer, and 46.5% for colorectal cancer), and rates varied among Hispanic subgroups (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Mexican American, Central or South American, and other Hispanic).

Trends for Screenings from 2000 to 2010

  • Breast cancer screening rates stayed about the same.
  • Colorectal cancer screening rates rose for both men and women. The rate for women increased slightly faster, so that the rates for men and women were about the same in 2010 (58.5% for men and 58.8% for women).
  • The rate of women who reported getting a Pap test within the last three years dropped slightly (3.3%) over the 10-year period.

Screenings save lives. We know that from our mammography screenings.

Twice a mammography found a cancer that could not be felt by my doctor in a comprehensive breast exam. I was spared having to have chemotherapy because annual screenings gave me the gift of the earliest possible intervention.

Colonoscopies and Pap screenings as well as mammograms save countless lives. No one needs to skip getting these screenings.

If cost is an issue, the American Cancer Society and your local Dept of Health can tell you where and how you can get a low cost or no cost colonoscopy, Pap and mammogram.

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