Rates for Cancer Screening Have Plateued

A recent NPR blog describes how the screening rates for certain common cancers including breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer have stalled in recent years across the United States.

According to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just 72.6% of women who are between the ages of fifty and seventy-two have reported being up-to-date on their recommend mammograms as of 2013. This number sits more than eight percentage points short of the eighty percent goal which health agencies hoped to reach by the year 2020. Most alarmingly, is the fact that the rates have plateaued.

The numbers regarding screening for cervical cancer appear to be marginally better. The same CDC report notes that a little more than eighty percent of women have received a Pap test recently. This sits more than twelve percentage points below the 2020 target numbers. In fact, the Pap test has experienced a robust decline over the last decade and a half as it has been administered at a rate of 5.5 percentage points lower than that of the year 2000.

Cancer Screening Rates

The 2020 goal set for screening rates for colorectal cancer sits at 70.5%. However, it seems unlikely the nation will achieve these goals as just 58.2% of men and women between the age of fifty and seventy-five have reported receiving a screening for the cancer in 2013. The rates experienced a significant spike around the turn of the millennium, but have since flattened out. Dr. Richard Wender, who serves as the American Cancer Society’s chief cancer control officer, notes that once you find yourself in such a plateau, it is hard to escape. However, he believes the numbers show the need to reinvigorate the charge to spur a nation-wide increase in cancer screening rates.

The report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention also makes mention of how insurance status, race, and income are correlated to disparities in screening rates. Wender points out how the rollout of the Affordable Care Act could engender an increase, but it is far from a full-fledged solution to this alarming issue.