HINTS Survey Shows Most Americans Unaware of When or How Often to Get Cancer Screening
According to the latest brief from the Health Information National Trends Survey, also called the HINTS Survey, most Americans don't know when or how often to have these potentially life-saving screening tests.
Schmalfeldt: Most Americans know that mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies are screening tests used to find cancers in their earliest and most treatable stages. But according to the latest brief from the Health Information National Trends Survey, also called the HINTS Survey, most Americans don't know when or how often to have these potentially life-saving screening tests. The survey was developed by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health to measure how the general public gets its information about cancer and how it uses that info, as well as ways that information can be delivered most effectively. Dr. Sarah C. Kobrin is a Program Director with the Applied Cancer Screening Research Branch, Behavioral Program Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the NCI.
Kobrin: Although patient education is important for increasing awareness about the need for screening, it's actually getting screened that really matters. And what we know is that it's the doctor's recommendation that is, in fact, the most important factor in people getting screened.
Schmalfeldt: Doctor Kobrin talked about effective ways of letting patients know when and how often to get screened for cancer.
Kobrin: What's been successful for a lot of doctors' offices and HMOs and other health systems is using reminder systems. People do like it when the doctor's office calls them and lets them know when the time is to get screened, and that's been most effective. In fact, I think what the HINTS survey tells us is that not everybody has access to the same level of care and not everybody goes to a system where they're able to send out reminders like that.
Schmalfeldt: The HINTS Survey also pointed out that there are racial and ethnic differences in knowledge of screening recommendations. For instance, when asked about screening for colorectal cancer, 79 percent of Hispanic respondents didn't know the recommended age to begin regular screening. That's compared to 75 percent of African Americans, 70 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and 38 percent of Whites. Doctor Kobrin talked about what needs to be done to close this gap.
Kobrin: Those are the kinds of things we need to address at system levels. We need to make sure that everybody has access to the same quality of care, that they can go to systems where the doctors have the time, they have the systems in place to be able to provide reminders, that people have access to the other necessities in their lives that give them the time to pay attention to something like looking for trouble that hasn't come yet.
Schmalfeldt: For more information about the survey, visit the NCI web page at www.cancer.gov and search for the key word "HINTS". From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Sarah C. Kobrin