A new report found that approximately 1 in 7 confirmed cancer diagnoses is discovered by cancer screening. The study sheds new light on the importance of early screenings to detect cancer before symptoms push patients to their healthcare providers.

University of Chicago’s NORC research institution reviewed reams of data on the correlation between diagnoses and screenings. Routine screenings are used for many of the most common types of cancer, including breast, cervical and colon cancer. Other screening tests are recommended for high-risk patients, such as lung cancer screenings for smokers.

Improving Cancer Screening Effectiveness

The study found that the quality of tests, timing of screenings and participation all plays roles in the low screening rate.

Quality of Screening Procedures

Screening tests aren’t perfect and can miss cancer signs in some cases. Physicians have multiple screening options ranging from more invasive measures, like colonoscopies, to lab-based testing with stool or blood samples. Choosing the right test at the right time for the right patient improves the validity of screening results.

Cancer Screening Schedule

Some cancer screenings are recommended every 1-2 years for women in the higher-risk age ranges. Other tests, like those focused on colon cancer, are only conducted every 10 years. More frequent screening for a wider range of cancer types could vastly improve the effectiveness of screenings for all populations.

Access to Care

Patients without access to affordable health care for financial or mobility reasons are less likely to get the necessary screenings. Even Americans with access to care aren’t perfect when it comes to scheduling their cancer screenings. A report by the CDC found that while 69% of Americans 50-79 years old were up to date with colon cancer screenings, the rate varied dramatically by state. Just 58% of Californians were up to date, while 22% of Americans within the at-risk age group had never been screened at all.

Related: Kidney Cancer: An Overview of Symptoms, Treatments and Prognoses

The Study

NORC reviewed cancer diagnosis data for 2017. It did not count the diagnoses of cancer discovered by traditional methods if the patients sought testing due to symptoms. The 14% cancer diagnosis reflects only positive cancer diagnoses detected through routine tests in asymptomatic individuals.

Review the full analysis.

The success rate of screenings also varied considerably by cancer type. 61% of all breast cancer diagnoses were made through screening, as well as 52% of cervical cancers and 45% of colon cancer. The lowest success rate of just 3% was for lung cancer. Lung cancer screening tests are some of the newest and are only given to the highest-risk patients.

Cancer Prevention is a Win for Everyone

By encouraging access to cancer screening and prevention education, we can improve cancer outcomes for everyone. Lifelong cancer prevention efforts reduce the total number of cancer patients and emphasize the importance of regular cancer screenings, especially for those in high-risk populations. Learn more about what we do and consider supporting Less Cancer today.