Why is this checkup important?
With around 72,000 new cases every year, breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women. About one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and almost three out of ten affected women are younger than 55 years of age at the time of diagnosis, according to the Center for Cancer Registry Data. The relative ten-year survival rate is relatively high at 83 percent, but here too the chances of recovery improve if the cancer is detected early. Women over the age of 30 are entitled to an annual breast and armpit examination and are given guidance on breast self-examination. In this way, any changes in the breast tissue can be detected at an early stage. Women between the ages of 50 and 69 are invited by post every two years to a mammography screening. Small tumors in particular should be detected early with this X-ray examination of the breast. Depending on the study, the participation rate in mammography screening is around 50 percent.
Early detection of colon cancer
What is being done?*
- Advice on colorectal cancer screening program
- 50 to 54 years: annual test for non-visible blood in the stool
- from the age of 55: optional test every two years for non-visible blood in the stool or two colonoscopies at least ten years apart
Why is this checkup important?
About every eighth cancer in Germany affects the colon or rectum. The risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age, only around ten percent of these cancers occur before the age of 55. The most important risk factors for colorectal cancer are smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a low-fiber diet. Those who drink alcohol regularly, eat a lot of red, processed meat and have a family history of colon cancer are also more likely to develop the disease. According to the long-term study by the Scientific Institute of the AOK, the early detection colonoscopies (colonoscopies) are used by a maximum of 20 to 22 percent of the insured over a ten-year period. In order to increase these numbers, since July 2019 invitations have also been sent to insured persons for colorectal cancer screening. Due to the corona pandemic and the associated decline in the number of examinations, no clear statements can currently be made about the effect of this more direct approach to those entitled.
Conclusion: Overall, too few people take advantage of the most important health checks, such as general health checks and preventive check-ups for early cancer detection. There are many reasons for this, some of which the AOK found out in a representative survey. 21 percent of those surveyed stated that they were embarrassed to talk about preventive medical check-ups such as a colonoscopy in their private lives. Twenty-two percent of women and 24 percent of men said they were concerned that the tests might be uncomfortable or painful. Overall, it is striking that women reported going to regular medical check-ups much more frequently than men (78 percent vs. 54 percent). This is also confirmed by the actual figures, and our expert, Dr. Schmid-Altringer says: “Men tend to be ‘non-provisional’, and that also applies to health behavior. Women are much more health conscious, they drink less alcohol, are more careful about their weight and take more courses for a healthier quality of life.”
How could you increase the number of preventive medical check-ups performed? There are different approaches to this. Our expert says that she finds it important “that more practices than before offer suitable time slots with short waiting times, so that working, elderly and caring women in particular have the chance to get preventive appointments. If the practice only opens from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., it will be cramped for many women.” In 2022, the AOK, together with the German Cancer Society, declared November 28 to be “Cancer Prevention Day” due to the declining number of cancer screening tests. Every year, an action week starts on this day with increased information offers online, via telephone hotline and events, which should lead to increased attention and motivation to take advantage of the preventive care offers more often. And perhaps this text can also contribute a little to ensuring that preventive medical check-ups are talked about more and that they are noticed more often.
dr medical Stefanie Schmid-Altringer is a doctor and science journalist specializing in women’s and men’s health. For women, together with Prof. Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, she wrote “The xx medicine. The Health Book for Women – New Findings from Gender Medicine”. Published by Scorpio Verlag, 2021.
*Source: National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV)