Do screening guidelines matter?

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Cancer screening guidelines influence approximately half of U.S. adults to undergo breast and prostate cancer screening, according to results of a Truven Health Analytics/NPR poll published in August.

The telephone poll, conducted from June 1 to 13, asked 3,006 U.S. adults their opinions about healthcare screening exams.

A total of 49 percent of women said they had undergone a mammography screening exam in the last 12 months. While 78 percent of women age 40 or older were aware of screening guidelines, 52 percent of those aware said it influenced their decision to have the test.

Among women who had not had a mammogram in the past 12 months:
  • 18 percent said they didn’t have time;
  • 17 percent chose not to;
  • 12 percent said they didn’t need it;
  • 11 percent said they had a mammogram, but not in the last year;
  • 7 percent had the exam scheduled, but not completed; and
  • 5 percent said their physician did not recommend the exam.

A total of 67 percent of male respondents age 50 and older said they were aware of prostate cancer screening guidelines; however, 45 percent of those aware of the guidelines said they influenced their decision to have the test. (On May 21, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force rated prostate cancer screening grade D, citing "moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits.”)

Among men who did not undergo screening:
  • 20 percent said they didn’t need it;
  • 14 percent chose not to;
  • 11 percent had an exam more than 12 months ago;
  • 11 percent said their physician did not recommend it; and
  • 4 percent had a prostate cancer screening test scheduled.

A total of 14 percent of respondents indicated they had a colorectal screening exam in the last month. Among those who did not have an exam:
  • 25 percent said they had one more than 12 months ago;
  • 21 percent said they didn’t need it;
  • 13 percent chose not to;
  • 10 percent said their physician did not recommend the exam;
  • 8 percent said they didn’t have the time; and
  • 4 percent had scheduled the exam.

For more about prostate cancer, look for "Prostate Cancer: In the Eye of the Storm," in the Sept./Oct. issue of Health Imaging.