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Rural-urban differences in cancer screening among women

Study finds women living in rural areas less likely to undergo colorectal cancer screening.

November 01, 2021

Women living in rural areas are less likely to follow the recommended screenings for colorectal cancer. However, they are just as likely as women living in urban areas to receive mammograms, researchers have found. Nearly 3,000 women participated in the cross-sectional study.

“This study is unique because we pooled data across the several catchment areas and the findings showed rurality to be a significant factor. This is the first such study to reveal the extent of the rural-urban gap in colorectal cancer screening,” said Babalola Faseru, MB.ChB, MPH, site principal investigator and associate professor in the department of Population Health.

Dr. Faseru explained that lower uptake of colorectal cancer screenings in rural areas compared to urban communities may be due to slower adoption of colonoscopies, which allows clinicians to survey the entire colon and detect and remove polyps during the same procedure.

The findings were published in JAMA Network Open. Eleven cancer centers across the U.S., including The University of Kansas Cancer Center, participated in the study as part of the Population Health Assessment in Cancer Center Catchment Areas initiative funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The purpose of the initiative is to conduct research to better understand and characterize communities within NCI-designated cancer center catchment areas. “Catchment area” is the defined geographic area in which NCI-designated cancer centers concentrate their research, education and outreach efforts.

As the only NCI-designated cancer center in the region, we are accountable for understanding cancer’s impact and engaging communities to address that burden. Each year, The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s outreach arm, Masonic Cancer Alliance, hosts several cancer screening events throughout the region. Services at these events such as skin cancer checks, prostate cancer screenings and colorectal cancer screening kits are offered at no charge to the public.

The importance of regular cancer screenings

Regular screening tests are an important part of cancer prevention. Early detection allows your doctor to find cancer earlier when it’s more likely to be successfully treated.

People at average risk of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 45. Testing options include stool-based tests (such as a FIT Kit) and colonoscopies. Women should start undergoing mammograms started at age 40, or as recommended by your physician.

Learn more about managing your cancer risk.

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