Cancer Screening Knowledge and Beliefs

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) used data from its Health Information National Trends Survey to assess knowledge of, and beliefs about, cancer screening.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) used data from its Health Information National Trends Survey (cycle 4, August—November 2014) to assess knowledge of, and beliefs about, cancer screening. Survey respondents included 189 adults who provided socioeconomic data and answered questions about cancer screening.

Only 5.6% of the 189 respondents answered all four true/false questions about cancer screening correctly. For the first question, 70% of survey respondents correctly answered “false” for the statement, “These tests can definitely tell that a person has cancer.” The second statement, “When a test finds something abnormal, more tests are needed to know if it is cancer” is a true statement and was answered correctly by 92%. For the third question, 34% responded correctly (false) to the statement, “When a test finds something abnormal, it is very likely to be cancer.” Only 20% knew that “the harms of these tests and exams sometimes outweigh the benefits.”

Men, racial/ethnic minorities, and those with lower education levels and higher cancer fatalism beliefs were less likely to have accurate beliefs about cancer screening. Beliefs were not associated with respondents’ personal screening activities, such as having had mammograms or pap testing in the past. The NCI researchers concluded that public and patient education about cancer screening tests is needed and recommend using a shared-decision model approach.

To read more about the study, visit the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.