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Cancers can be diagnosed at different stages in their development. Stage of cancer diagnosis may be expressed as numbers (I, II, III, or IV, for example) or by terms such as "localized," "regional," and "distant." The lower the number or the more localized the cancer, the better a person's chances of benefiting from treatment and being cured.
Tracking the rates of late stage (distant) cancers is a good way to monitor the impact of cancer screening. When more cancers are detected in early stages, fewer should be detected in late stages.
Late-stage diagnosis rate: The number of new cancer cases diagnosed at a late (distant) stage, per 100,000 people per year. This report shows the rates for cancers of the prostate, colon, breast, and cervix uteri.
Prostate: Late-stage prostate cancer has fallen from 1995 to 2005, following the introduction of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
Female breast: Stable
Rectum (including Rectosigmoid Junction): Falling
Cervix: Falling from 1980–1996 and non-significant change from 1996–2005
In 2005, five major cancers were diagnosed at a late stage at the following rates:
Prostate: 7.1 new cases per 100,000 men per year
Colon: 6.8 new cases per 100,000 people per year
Female breast: 7.4 new cases per 100,000 women per year
Rectum: 2.0 new cases per 100,000 people per year
Cervix: 0.7 new cases per 100,000 women per year
There is no Healthy People 2010 target for this measure.
People who do not have regular, recommended cancer screening tests and/or experience a delay in following up on an abnormal screening test finding are at highest risk of being diagnosed with late-stage cancer.
A lower rate of diagnosis at late stages is an early sign of the effectiveness of cancer screening efforts. These lower rates can be expected to occur before decreases in death rates are seen. For example, the drop in new cases of late-stage prostate cancer probably was an early indicator of lower death rates observed for this disease.
Important differences among racial and ethnic groups in the percentage of cases diagnosed at a late stage contribute to disparities in cancer mortality.