Study Finds that Only 14% of Cancer Patients in the US Are Diagnosed By Screenings

Study Finds that Only 14% of Cancer Patients in the US Are Diagnosed By Screenings

According to a new report, only about 14 percent of all those suffering from cancer in the United States get diagnosed using a recommended screening test.

In reality, all the others diagnosed with cancer find out about their disease when they begin experiencing undeniable symptoms or seek medical care for other reasons.

This and more is what the report posted by researchers at the non-profit research organization NORC says.

Senior vice president of NORC and one author of the report says that “I was shocked that only about 14 percent of cancers are detected by screening. I think that for many people, we talk so much about cancer screening that we just imagine that that is how all cancers get diagnosed. We talk about mammograms and about colonoscopies all the time.”

However, Pearson added that “the vast majority of cancer types don’t have screening tests available.”

The report notes that there are only four types of cancer – cervical, breast, colorectal and lung – that the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends receiving screenings for.

That being said, the percentage of cancers discovered by these screenings also varies depending on their types as follows:  61% for breast cancer, 52% for cervical cancer, 45% for colorectal and only 3% for lung cancer.

While not widely recommended, they also included data for the success of screening diagnoses in the case of prostate cancer which is significantly higher than the others – 77%.

The study is based on data from back in 2017 and is yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal.

With that being said, Pearson suspects that the percentage of cancers detected by screenings might be even lower now than when the study was done.

This is the case because other research shows that the rates of cancer screenings have declined in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pearson explains that “I definitely believe that the percent of cancers detected by screening would’ve been lower as a result of the COVID pandemic. We know people missed a tremendous number of recommended screenings, and we’re seeing those cancers showing up at later stages in clinical settings. So with this reduction in screenings, we get fewer people diagnosed that way, and that’s certainly something that we’d pick up in the data.”

Oncology professor at Johns Hopkins University and someone who wasn’t directly involved in the research, Dr. Otis Brawley, says that he wasn’t too shocked by the findings, especially due to the fact that some cancer screenings’ performance can be improved.

“Everyone has been led to think that screenings are better than it actually is. We need to invest in research to try and find better tests. We spend so much time pushing screening tests – yes, they do save lives, but we have to be able to save more lives. We need better,” Brawley stressed.


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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