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Cancers can be diagnosed at different stages in their development. Stage of cancer diagnosis may be expressed as numbers (for example, I, II, III, or IV) 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.
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, female breast, and cervix uteri.
Prostate: Late-stage prostate cancer fell from 1995 to 2007, following the introduction of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
Colon: Late-stage colon cancer incidence fell for most of the period of between 1980 and 2007.
Female breast: Incidence rates of late-stage cancer have been stable throughout the period between 1980 and 2007.
Rectum (including Rectosigmoid Junction): Incidence rates fell throughout the period between 1980 and 2007.
Cervix: Incidence rates fell from 19802007.
In 2007, five major cancers were diagnosed at a late stage at the following rates:
Prostate: 6.69 new cases per 100,000 men per year
Colon: 6.32 new cases per 100,000 people per year
Female breast: 7.46 new cases per 100,000 women per year
Rectum: 1.93 new cases per 100,000 people per year
Cervix: 0.53 new cases per 100,000 women per year
There is no Healthy People 2010 target for this measure.
People who do not have access to health care or do not receive regular, recommended cancer screening tests 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.