TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- While more Americans are being screened for colon and breast cancer than ever before, millions aren't getting the tests and thousands are dying needlessly as a result, according to U.S. health officials.
Two new reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that rates of recommended screening for colon cancer have risen from 52 percent of adults in 2002 to 63 percent in 2008. And, by 2008, just over 81 percent of women aged 50 to 74 were getting mammograms as recommended, about the same level as in 2006.
However, the CDC said that 7 million women who should have had a mammogram recently have gone without the potentially lifesaving screen, and 22 million Americans who should have undergone colon cancer screening have not done so.
"Most deaths from colon cancer could be prevented by screening technologies that are available today," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a press briefing to announce the new findings.
"We are encouraged by increases in colon cancer screening rates over the years," he added.
According to Frieden, some of the increase in the screening rates for colon cancer is due to the attention brought to the disease by CBS News anchor Katie Couric, whose 2004 on-air colonoscopy highlighted the disease and the test. Couric lost her husband Jay Monahan to colon cancer in 1998.
"Nevertheless, there is a lot more progress we could make with colon cancer screening," Frieden said. "There are more than 20 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 who need to be screened, who have not been screened. If they were [screened] that would save thousands of deaths per year."
In terms of breast cancer, there has been a leveling off of breast cancer screening rates in recent years, Frieden said.
"We know that mammography does prevent breast cancer and prevent the s
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