The Real Reasons Women Aren't Getting the Cancer Screenings They Need

woman getting a mammogramThere are certain realities most women in the U.S. accept about their health care. We know we're supposed to get annual mammograms, cervical cancer screenings (aka pap smears), and after the age of 50, screenings for colorectal cancer (choices include a yearly fecal occult blood test or sigmoidoscopy every five years, or have a colonoscopy every 10 years). But even if we know what we should be doing, it doesn't mean all of us are ... A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the number of Americans being screened for colon, cervical, and breast cancers still fall below national targets.

In other words, not as many women are getting preventative care as should. Kinda crazy considering how pervasive breast cancer awareness in particular is these days!


But I wouldn't point the finger at women themselves. The problem here more likely has a lot to do with confusing information and health insurance woes. For one thing, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made a completely befuddling recommendation back in 2009 that women aged 50 to 74 get a mammogram only every two years to screen for breast cancer, leaving out women in their 40s (many of whom owe their lives to early detection via screening!). Many experts have disagreed with this recommendation, and it's not even necessarily what authoritative bodies, like the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, agree with, yet it's spawned a lot of uncertainty about regular mammos -- for patients and likely some doctors. I wouldn't be surprised if that uncertainty and confusion is a huge factor keeping some women from getting regular breast cancer screenings.

Plus, the situation with health insurance and the affordability of health care these days must be a hurdle. But the good news is that women can still get breast exams at Planned Parenthood. Those without health insurance and especially those with low incomes can go to Planned Parenthood for lifesaving preventative health care, like breast exams or cervical cancer screenings. The fact that the far right wing politicians have been looking to take down family planning clinics is crazy, considering that there are more women out there who would benefit from Planned Parenthood's affordable screenings.

In the end, though, seems as though the CDC should look into the numbers, and see what can be done, so that more American women are getting the life-saving screenings they need.

Do you or do you plan to get screened regularly for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer?


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