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Survey Shows Low Use of Colon Cancer Screening Tests

Survey Shows Low Use of Colon Cancer Screening Tests

ATLANTA—Although screening can reduce mortality from colorectal cancer, a CDC study indicates low use of sigmoidoscopy/proctoscopy and the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), particularly within the recommended time intervals. People with health insurance, higher incomes, and more education were more likely to report having had these tests.

In 1997, only 41% of adults age 50 and older reported having had one of the two commonly recommended screening tests (FOBT or flexible sigmoidoscopy) within the recommended time frame [MMWR 48(6):116-121, 1999].

The CDC analyzed data from the 1997 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) on the use of colorectal screening tests. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico participated in the BRFSS, a population-based, random-digit-dialed telephone survey of the noninstitutionalized, US population 18 years or older. A total of 52,754 persons aged 50 or over were asked whether they had ever had a blood stool test using a home kit or a sigmoidoscopy/proctos-copy and when the last test had been performed.

Overall, 39.7% of respondents reported ever having had an FOBT, and 41.7% said they had ever had sigmoidoscopy/proctoscopy. A total of 19.8% reported having had FOBT during the preceding year, and 30.4% said they had had sigmoidoscopy/proctoscopy during the preceding 5 years (the recommended time periods). Overall, 40.9% reported having had either test within the recommended time interval, and 9.5% reported having had both tests during the prescribed time.

Men were more likely than women to have had sigmoidoscopy/proctoscopy (35.1% vs 26.7%), and women were more likely to have had FOBT (20.9% vs 18.3%).

“The findings in this report underscore the need for efforts to increase screening for colorectal cancer,” the report said. “In response to low rates of use of screening tests, CDC is beginning a comprehensive health communication campaign to educate consumers and health care providers about the importance of colorectal cancer screening and to encourage patients to discuss screening options with their providers.”

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