People with Disabilities Have Lower Colon Cancer Screening Rates

Previous studies have identified racial and ethnic disparities in colon cancer screenings, but new research has identified another underserved population – people with disabilities.

Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine performed an observational study which examined screening adherence rates of individuals with intellectual disabilities, spinal cord injuries, or blindness or low vision and compared them with the general U.S. population. The study included data from South Carolina Medicaid and Medicare claims, state health plan claims and hospital discharge forms from 2000 to 2009.

The researchers discovered that individuals with certain disabilities had lower screening rates than the general population. Only 34 percent of people with intellectual disabilities, 44 percent of people with spinal cord injuries and 46 percent of people with blindness or visual impairment followed screening guidelines for colon cancer. The overall screening rate for the general public was 48 percent.

Study author Chelsea Deroche, Ph.D., explained that several barriers could be responsible for this disparity. “I think a lot of it has to do with access to the care, and also [the disparity has] a little bit of providers not giving these people the information that they need,” she said. Deroche went on to explain that those with physical limitations may not have easy access to transportation to complete colon cancer screenings. Those with intellectual disabilities may be in group homes that do not prioritize preventative screenings, and doctors may not thoroughly discuss screening recommendations with these patients.

Deroche would like to see screening rates increase in the future, particularly among individuals with disabilities. However, she admits that further research on a broader scale is needed. “We want to do a wider study — because we did just do South Carolina – [with] a general US population to validate what we’ve done here and that these findings are nation-wide,” she said. Future research will likely include a larger population of patients and include various tumor types, including breast cancer and cervical cancer (Source: Oncology Nursing News).