Cancer Screenings for Medicaid Patients Miss Targets

Oct. 15 -- TUESDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Screening rates for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer among older Medicaid patients are below national objectives, a new study suggests.

The researchers looked at 1,951 North Carolina Medicaid recipients aged 50 and older. "Documentation that colorectal, breast and cervical cancer screening was recommended by the primary-care provider was found for only 52.7 percent, 60.4 percent and 51.5 percent of eligible patients, respectively," wrote Dr. C. Annette DuBard, of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues.

"Documented rates of adequate screening were 28.2 percent for colorectal cancer, 31.7 percent for mammography within two years and 31.6 percent for Papanicolaou [cervical cancer] test within three years. When medical record and claims data were combined, approximately half of eligible patients had evidence of screening."

These rates are substantially lower than in the general population.

"Lack of screening recommendation by the physician, rather than patient refusal of recommended tests, accounted for most instances of screening delinquency," the researchers concluded. "Efforts to increase cancer screening rates among Medicaid recipients must address patient, physician and organizational barriers to the routine identification and delivery of preventive services."

The study was published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers noted that colorectal, breast and cervical cancer are potentially curable when treated early, and that eliminating disparities in screening is part of the U.S. government's Healthy People 2010 Plan.

"State Medicaid agencies are in a unique position to monitor and improve the quality of care received by some of the nation's most vulnerable citizens," the study authors wrote.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about cancer screening.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Oct. 13, 2008