Less than one-third of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are screened for colorectal cancer

Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2015

Adults in Ontario with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) such as autism and Down syndrome are significantly less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer than the general population, according to new research published in PLOS ONE.

In the first study of its kind, researchers showed that only 32% of Ontarians with IDD were up-to-date with colorectal tests (including one of the following: fecal occult blood test in the previous two years, sigmoidoscopy in the previous five years or colonoscopy in the previous 10 years) compared with 47.2% of Ontarians without IDD.

“As the lifespan of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities increases, the risk of this population developing chronic conditions like cancer increases. Suboptimal screening may contribute to a greater cancer burden in these individuals,” says Hélène Ouellette-Kuntz, lead author of the study as well as a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen's University and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

The cohort study examined colorectal cancer screening uptake among Ontario residents aged 50 to 64 as of March 31, 2010, with and without IDD. The study found that the factors significantly associated with a higher likelihood of having been screened for colorectal cancer in the IDD population include being older, being female, having a greater expected use of health care resources and being enrolled with or seeing a physician in a primary care patient enrollment model.

“In a previous study, we showed even greater disparities for breast and cervical cancer screening between women living in Ontario without IDD and those with IDD. Our current research findings highlight the urgent need for targeted interventions aimed at making cancer screening more equitable,” says Professor Virginie Cobigo of the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa and a scientist at ICES.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in Canada and the second and third leading cause of cancer deaths among Canadian men and women, respectively. In 2008, Ontario launched Canada's first population-based colorectal cancer screening program. The program's goals are to increase the capacity of primary care providers to participate in organized colorectal cancer screening and to reduce mortality from colorectal cancer.

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