According to a recently released report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many forms of cancer are caught at late stages, making the diseases difficult to treat.
The CDC report found that almost half of cervical and colorectal cancers (colon cancer or large bowel cancer) and a third of breast-cancer cases are caught at late stages.
With the prevalence of screening tests available at doctors' offices across the country, one cannot but help wonder why cancer isn't being detected earlier.
Effective screening can lead to early detection and treatment, but researchers note that screening tests are not always perfect or consistent. For example, mammograms don't catch all tumors - sometime cancerous spots do not appear on x-rays. And many tests themselves carry risks, such as possible complications during a screening procedure.
Many people never receive screening tests recommended by organizations like the American Cancer Society and the United States Preventive Services Task Force. According to the CDC's report, only 62 percent of men aged 50 to 75 (the range where colon cancer is the most common) received recommended colorectal cancer screening, and about 81 percent of women aged 50 to 74 received recommended breast cancer screening. This still leaves a large percent of the population unscreened, despite age and presence of other health risk factors.
And the CDC's study does not accurately measure whether the individuals who were screened for cancer were directed to do so by their doctors or requested the tests on their own. Responsibility for proper cancer diagnosis and screening falls largely on doctors, as the average patient won't likely inquire about screening tests - they expect their physicians to recommend when they need additional testing.
The CDC's findings reinforce the need for ongoing monitoring of available screening and incidents of cancer. "More work is needed to widely implement evidence-based cancer screening tests which may lead to early detection and, ultimately, an increase in the number of lives saved," said CDC Cancer Prevention Division Direction Marcus Plescia.