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Colon Cancer Screenings Still Too Low: Study
Date:9/8/2009

Even when Americans have health care 'safety net' in place, rates barely budge, report finds

TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Despite highly publicized education campaigns and widespread agreement about the importance of colorectal cancer screening, only 61 percent of Americans who should be screened do so, new research finds.

Rates for minorities, the uninsured and other vulnerable groups are lower still, with only 22 percent of lower-income people served by a "safety net" health system in Texas being screened.

Using data from a health system in Tarant county, Tex., researchers identified 20,416 men and women ages 54 to 75 who were eligible for colorectal cancer screening.

The Tarrant County Hospital District, which includes Forth Worth, Texas, is a safety net health system that serves 155,000 individuals a year, many of them uninsured or Medicaid recipients.

About 15 percent of the patients lived below the poverty line. The median household income was $35,419. Most patients were either black or Hispanic; nearly 20 percent reported a primary language other than English.

Patients most likely to get screened included those who saw a doctor regularly or who had health insurance, said Dr. Samir Gupta, assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

"Once you controlled for those variables, the screening rate was essentially zero," Gupta said.

About 40 percent of those in the study had health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, while another 40 percent had medical coverage through their connection to the safety net system. Twenty percent were uninsured.

Those with insurance were almost three times as likely to be screened, and those who saw the doctor regularly were nearly four times as likely to be screened.

Women were slightly more likely than men to be screened. Hispanics wer
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