About 1-in-3 U.S. adults, about 23 million Americans, ages 50 to 75 is not getting tested for colorectal cancer as recommended, health officials say.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer of U.S. men and women following lung cancer.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends three colorectal cancer screening tests that are effective at saving lives: colonoscopy, stool tests -- fecal occult blood test-FOBT or fecal immunochemical test-FIT -- and sigmoidoscopy, which is now seldom done.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vital Signs report using data from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, says 10 percent of adults who got tested for colorectal cancer used an effective at-home stool test.
The 23 million adults who have never been tested are more likely to be:
-- Hispanic 50 to 64, men, American Indian or Alaska natives.
-- Those who don't live in a city.
-- People with lower education and income.
About 2-of-3 adults who have never been tested have a regular doctor and health insurance that could pay for the test.
The three main tests are all effective at finding cancer early, but
doctors often recommend colonoscopy more than other tests, the report says.
Scientific studies have shown that many people would prefer FOBT/FIT if their healthcare provider gave them that option, the report says.
However, today most healthcare providers and healthcare systems are not set up to help more people get tested. Many patients do not know they need to be tested and are not notified when it is time to be tested.
Most healthcare systems rely on doctors to remember to offer these tests to their patients.
"Nurses and other office staff should also talk with patients about getting tested and doctors can be reminded to offer colorectal cancer testing whenever patients are due, whether they come in for a routine check-up or when they are sick," CDC officials say.
"Health systems can make testing easier by mailing out FOBT/FIT kits that can be completed at home by the patient and mailed back and then making sure everyone with a test that is not normal promptly gets a colonoscopy."
About 90 percent of patients live five or more years when their colorectal cancer is found early via testing, the report says.
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