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Prevention, Early Detection and New Treatments Key to Continued Progress in Cancer Care

Fifty years of government investment in cancer research is paying off in prevention strategies, early detection tests, and new treatments that add up to better outcomes for patients, according to the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023, released Sept. 13 by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). (The AACR also publishes Cancer Today.) Cancer death rates continue to decline and have fallen by a third since 1991, according to the report, with breakthroughs like immunotherapy extending the lives of people who have historically had few treatment options. But the report also highlights ongoing challenges, including cancers that haven’t seen the same improvements in survival and disparities in care and outcomes for different populations. To that end, the AACR also announced an alliance with cancer centers around the country to address these issues and improve communication with the public, according to an article in USA Today. “One of the failures of the scientific community has been communicating to all these populations what the opportunities are, what the advantages are and to create trust in the cancer research enterprise,” cancer researcher and AACR president Philip D. Greenberg said in USA Today. “What people need to recognize is how incredible the opportunities are.”

Learning About Diagnosis Through Online Records Can Lead to Confusion

With the immediate access to medical records now law, people are finding not just notes online, they are learning about serious diagnoses, including cancer, through test results posted to their health care portal without vital information provided in a doctor’s office. When doctors share test results, they can provide more context around what exactly the test found, what it means for the patient’s health, and what treatment options are available. But test results posted online can come through notifications while a person is at work or in public, and they come with unfamiliar language that can lead to anxiety and confusion. The Wall Street Journal reported how, in one case, a woman went to the emergency room with an anxiety attack after misinterpreting her husband’s CT scan results. “Sometimes the pathology or radiology result can look worse than it is,” Jack Resneck, chair of the department of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, and a former president of the American Medical Association, told the Journal. “A physician can read between the lines and put it all in context.” Health systems rushing to adhere to the law often don’t have a choice to opt out of select notifications, but experts encourage people to use their judgment. If you want to view results immediately, ask your health care provider before the test what you should look for in the report. You can also decide not to open the report and wait until you can discuss the results with your doctor.

Most People Overdue for Colorectal Cancer Screening Say Doctor Didn’t Recommend Test

A recent study found that just a quarter of people who are overdue for colorectal cancer screening say a doctor recommended the test to them. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed both overall low levels of doctors recommending screening to people who end up overdue and disparities in who was most likely to have gotten a recommendation, with Black, Hispanic and Asian people less likely to have been directed to screening than white people, Healio reported. People whose income was at least four times higher than the national poverty rate were more likely to have been pointed toward screening, while only 10% of people who lack a usual source of care had testing recommended. “Receiving a clinician recommendation is the strongest and most consistent determinant of CRC screening participation. Lack of clinician recommendation may contribute to low uptake of CRC screening, but the magnitude of this problem is unknown,” the researchers wrote.