Common barriers to recommended cancer screening

 Getting Recommended Cancer Tests Can help detect cancer at an early stage when the treatment is most effective.1 However, there are some significant barriers that can prevent people from getting the recommended cancer screening. And fear of what the screenings might include or reveal.

Here are some common barriers to cancer screening and what you can do to overcome them.

Lack of awareness

One of the reasons people do not get the recommended cancer tests is because they do not know what to do. Recommendations for changing who and when to test when new research or technologies become available.

Having a primary care provider you see regularly - for example, for routine tests or when you are sick - gives them the opportunity to notify you of any screenings you may need or to change test recommendations that affect you.

Lack of time

Screening may take time. Although the procedure may take 30 minutes or more to complete, it does not include how long it will take you to get to the clinic or hospital, fill out the required documents, prepare for the procedure, or recover. Talk to your doctor about the results.

It can feel like a huge time commitment, especially if you are trying to handle several priorities on a strict schedule. It may be difficult to reduce the amount of time you spend under a specific procedure, but you can reduce the total time by taking a few simple steps:

See if you can do the procedure close to your home or work or in a place that offers more convenient hours.

Ask what paper you can fill out to reduce the time you spend in the waiting room.

Rather than scheduling a follow-up appointment in person, request telemedicine results, if possible, through a visit.

If your doctor prescribes multiple screenings, ask if they can be done on the same day and in the same place to reduce the time you are away from your other responsibilities.


The cost of cancer screening can be unaffordable for some people, especially those who do not have health insurance.

Because cancer screening is a precautionary benefit, most health insurance plans in the United States cover the cost of cancer reduction procedures at no cost (e.g., cop or coin insurance).

Preventive Care: Free and Failure

But without health insurance, prices for cancer screenings can vary widely depending on the procedure or location and can cost up to hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

When you are involved with other expenses related to getting screenings, such as transportation costs, child care expenses, or wages you lost because you lost your job, some may worry that they are too expensive to pursue.

Reducing the out-of-pocket cost of cancer tests, such as mammograms, is a way to increase the number of people who receive them.

If you are not sure that you can afford the cost of a recommended test, ask your doctor or local health department what programs or services are available in your area.

Lack of access

Some may be omitted because they do not have access to cancer tests - either because there are no options in your area or because the available ones are not adequate.

In many rural areas, especially in the United States, there are not enough medical providers to travel to. As a precaution, adults often have to travel for hours to see a primary care physician and sometimes to a specialist. For adults who do not have adequate transport, the distance can be removed from the question screen.

But even if a medical provider may be geographically accessible, they may still be adequately equipped or reluctant to meet the patient's needs. For example, if a provider does not speak the same language as the patient, they will not always use a medical translator or translation service when interacting with them.

Even if they speak the same language, they may display a bias that makes patients feel that they do not receive the highest quality or most appropriate care. That experience can reduce the quality of interactions and prevent medical providers as much as possible, including cancer screening.

Overcoming this barrier can be challenging and often out of the patient's control. That said, there are a few imperfect solutions you can try:

If you live in a very rural area, call your doctor or local health department to see if there are any options close to home or services to help you meet the cancer screening and transport you out.

If you are unable to communicate with your doctor, you (or someone you love) may request that you use a medical translation service every time the doctor speaks to you during your appointment. If they can't, see if a bilingual lover will come with you to meet you.

If you feel biased towards a medical provider who is preventing you from providing quality care, seek the recommendations of other providers with positive experience from friends or relatives. If seeing another provider is not an option, ask someone to come with you during your appointments and represent you.


There are many benefits to getting a recommended cancer test, and fear can be a powerful deterrent. Some people may worry about procedures, fearing that they will be painful or uncomfortable. Others may be afraid to get a cancer diagnosis.

Whatever the cause of your fears, your doctor will be able to better understand how realistic those fears can be or how to manage them. For example, if you are concerned about pain, your doctor can usually tell you how much discomfort it is and what are your options for reducing it.

If you are worried about having cancer, your doctor can explain how the benefits of a previous diagnosis (if one comes) and how they compare with the risk of waiting.

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