Patients Realize Importance of Cancer Screening, But Not Risks

February 16, 2015

Cancer screening is a good thing, say people in the UK, but fewer than half understand associated risks to screening like mammography.

Most people agree that cancer screening is important and should be performed, but less than half understand risks associated with the screening, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Researchers from the United Kingdom performed a population-based survey that asked 1,895 subjects (975 women and 920 men) about their attitudes regarding cancer screening, and their own screening history and demographic characteristics. The subjects were aged 50 to 80. The results showed:

• Nearly 90% of respondents agreed that screening is ‘almost always a good idea’

• 75% believed that earlier detection means treatment can save lives ‘most’ or ‘all’ of the time

• 64% thought early diagnosis means less treatment is needed ‘most’ or ‘all’ of the time

• 49% were previously unaware that some cancers are slow-growing and unlikely to cause problems

• 45% wanted to be tested for slow-growing cancers or those unlikely to cause problems

• 49% wanted to be tested for a cancer for which nothing could be done

• Almost 60% regarded declining a screening offer as ‘irresponsible’

• 72% believed they had received the right number of screening tests in the past

"It's great that people are enthusiastic about cancer screening, and if people are keen to be screened, we need to minimize any barriers,” lead researcher Dr. Jo Waller said in a release. “But it's also important to remember that taking part in screening is an individual choice, and if someone decides that screening is not for them after considering the benefits and harms then that choice should be respected."