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Rural Areas Able to Increase Colon Cancer Screenings

As population ages, study finds destination states seeing higher volume of procedures

THURSDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Arizona health-care providers can handle a significant increase in patients wanting colorectal cancer screening as baby boomers continue to flock to the desert state, a new study shows.

People over age 60, one of the fastest-growing population segments in the country, are most at risk for gastrointestinal cancers. The findings -- expected to be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, in Carefree, Ariz. -- are in line with similar studies done nationally and in neighboring New Mexico.

"Responders estimated being able to increase their screening capacity by almost 37 percent. Our data suggests that the potential increase in the volume of screening procedures is greater for rural than urban areas. This is an important finding given that the rates of endoscopic screening are currently lower in rural areas," study leader Jose Benuzillo, a postdoctoral student at the University of Utah, said in a news release issued by the conference sponsor.

The study, which surveyed 105 Arizona gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons, revealed that those practicing in urban areas performed 8,312 endoscopic procedures a week in 2004, while those in rural area performed 405 procedures. The urban physicians estimated they could take on almost another 3,000 procedures, for a capacity increase of more than 35 percent; their rural counterparts said they could increase capacity by more than 53 percent, or by 215 procedures per week.

Urban physicians tended to say that they would need more physicians to increase capacity, while those in rural areas were most likely to say better compensation would be needed to increase capacity.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colorectal cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Feb. 5, 2009

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