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


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 per cent 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; colonoscopy in the previous ten years) compared to 47.2 per cent of Ontarians without IDD.

“As individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live longer, their risk of developing chronic conditions like cancer increases. Suboptimal screening may contribute to a greater cancer burden in this population,” says Hélène Ouellette-Kuntz, lead author of the study, 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-years-of-age on March 31, 2010, with and without IDD. The study found that being older, female, having a greater expected use of healthcare resources, and being enrolled with or seeing a physician in a primary care patient enrolment model were all significantly associated with higher likelihood of having been screened for colorectal cancer in the IDD population.

“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,” added professor Virginie Cobigo, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, and 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, the province of Ontario launched Canada’s first population-based colorectal cancer screening program. The program’s goals are to increase the capacity of primary care to participate in organized colorectal cancer screening and to reduce mortality from colorectal cancer.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

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Contributing ICES Scientists

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