Rheumatoid arthritis and non-rheumatoid arthritis patients get
routine screening for breast, cervical and colon cancer at similar
rates, states study.
The ACR estimates that 1.3 million adult Americans are affected by
RA—a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by systemic inflammation
of the joints that over time may damage joints, impair daily function,
and cause significant disability. Medical evidence confirms that despite
early and aggressive treatment, RA patients have a decreased life
expectancy compared to the general population. Previous research reports
that cancer is one of the main causes of death for RA patients and
patients with chronic disease may not receive preventive medical
services including regular screenings for cancer.
"Early detection of common cancers can improve morbidity and
mortality rates in those with chronic illnesses, such as RA," said Dr.
Seoyoung C. Kim with the Division of Rheumatology and Division of
Pharmacoepidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass.
"Cancer screening tests are important in detecting malignancies at early
stages for both chronically ill and healthy populations."
To further understand barriers to preventative medical care and
raise awareness of the importance of early cancer screenings, Dr. Kim
and colleagues examined screening rates for breast, cervical and colon
cancer in RA patient compared to those without the disease. Using claims
data from a major insurance provider, the team identified 13,314
patients with RA patients and 212,324 non-RA patients.
Analysis shows that on average both RA and non-RA groups were
screened once every three years for cervical cancer and every two years
for breast cancer. Among all participants 50 years and older, 12% of RA
patients and 10% of non-RA patients had at least one colonoscopy each
year. Women with RA were more likely to have an annual Pap smear,
mammogram, fecal occult blood (FOB) test and colonoscopy than those
without RA. Male RA patients were also more likely to have a colonoscopy
compared to than those without RA.
"Our findings indicate that RA patients were regularly screened for
cervical, breast and colon cancer as recommended by the American Cancer
Society," concludes Dr. Kim. "Cancer screenings rates among patients
with RA were similar to the general population, which is different than
previously published results. However, these earlier studies did not
compare rates of cancer screenings in RA patients with a non-RA group."
The authors suggest that patients and physicians be aware of the
importance of preventive healthcare in patients with chronic diseases
such as RA. They caution that results of this should not be generalized
to those without medical insurance.