Just one in seven instances of cancer in the U.S. are detected through cancer screening, new research shows, indicating a need to ramp-up early detection efforts to increase survival rates.
The independent research institution NORC at the University of Chicago found that just 14 percent of diagnosed cancers are detected via screening — and most others are found when symptoms occur or in the course of other medical care.
Cancer diagnoses outside of a recommended screening test account for 70 percent of cancer-related deaths, according to NORC.
But screening tests are available for just five cancer types, and 57 percent of all diagnosed cancers do not have a recommended test that can screen for them.
Four screening tests are recommended by national experts: breast, lung, cervical and colorectal, which together make up 29 percent of U.S. cancer cases, according to NORC. A fifth screening is available for prostate cancer, but the test is not widely recommended.
For the remaining cancer types, diagnoses are typically made when the patient is symptomatic, which usually means the cancer has progressed to a later, less-treatable stage.
The existing tests also vary in effectiveness, with breast cancer screenings much more effective than lung cancer detection — highlighting not just a need for an expanded repertoire of screenings, but a need to improve existing tests.
Research from the American Lung Association last month found that just 5.8 percent of Americans eligible for a lung cancer screening have gotten the test.
Some 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and 600,000 Americans die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Cancer treatments have vastly improved over the last few decades, but the health system’s ability to screen for cancer, which is essential for early diagnosis and effective treatment, still has a long way to go,” said NORC’s senior vice president Caroline Pearson in the research release.