Friday, January 25, 2013

American Cancer Society: Cancer Screenings Decline

The message has been preached for years: early cancer detection can improve outcomes. 

But cancer screenings have declined over the past 10 years, according to the American Cancer Society. 

ACA spokesman Chuck Reed says expense may be one reason - a mammogram can cost up to $300 if a person doesn't have health insurance in Pennsylvania, although low-cost and free screenings are available to those with low incomes. 

Another reason? Reed believes there's confusion about timing.

"People aren't sure exactly when to go in to get that first screening," he says. "And I strongly suggest to everybody to visit the American Cancer Society website and get our recommendations for screenings."

The Pennsylvania Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Screening Act provides funding to support breast and cervical cancer screening services to low-income, underinsured and uninsured women 40 to 49 years of age. 

Reed says another reason for the drop in screenings may be that people fear bad news, but he says early detection usually means a better chance of successful treatment.

Reed says there's no evidence that the missed screenings are upping cancer death rates - in fact, they've been going down.

"I'm more concerned about what's going to happen down the road as far as finding cancers in more advanced stages," he says.

ACA general guidelines: a first mammogram at age 40, a first colonoscopy at age 50, Pap tests at least every three years - depending on health status - and prostate cancer screenings should be discussed with a doctor at age 50.

Tom Joseph

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