Disabled Adults Less Likely to Receive Routine Colorectal Cancer Screening, Study Finds

Disabled Adults Less Likely to Receive Routine Colorectal Cancer Screening, Study Finds

Americans with impaired vision, intellectual disabilities or spinal cord injuries are less likely to receive recommended colon cancer screenings than the general population, a new study found.

The study, “Colorectal Cancer Screening Adherence in Selected Disabilities Over 10 Years,” appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.,” first author Chelsea Deroche, PhD, of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said in a press release. “However, almost 60 percent of these deaths could be prevented if people ages 50 years or older received routine screenings.”

Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people aged 50 to 75 years be screened by one of three methods: yearly fecal occult blood test (which detects blood in the stool); sigmoidoscopy (a procedure that lets doctors look inside the colon to check for polyps or cancer) every five years plus fecal occult blood test every three years; or colonoscopy every 10 years.

Despite evidence that screening reduces colorectal cancer deaths, disabled people face particular barriers in obtaining a range of clinical preventive services. This led Deroche and her team to find out whether such people get the recommended colorectal cancer screenings.

They examined data from South Carolina Medicaid and Medicare claims, state health plan claims and hospital discharge data between 2000 and 2009 in order to estimate the proportion of patients with disabilities who received colorectal cancer screening over time. Researchers focused on blind or vision-impaired patients as well as those with learning disabilities, who may not fully understand the benefits of cancer screening, and those with spinal cord injuries that generally limit their mobility.

Results showed that while 48 percent of the general population received routine screening, the number dropped to only 34 percent of those with an intellectual disability, 44 percent of those with spinal cord injuries, and 46 percent of blind or vision-impaired patients.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in the United States, with nearly 135,000 cases reported in 2016.

“These individuals may not be routinely screened for colorectal cancer due to a lack of education and awareness, transportation challenges or other barriers,” Deroche said. “These findings support the need for increased awareness and targeted advocacy outreach efforts to both physicians and caregivers to ensure all individuals are screened appropriately.”

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