RA Patients Get Tested for Cancer

Rheumatoid arthritis patients receive regular cancer screenings

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) It's important to get regular cancer screenings, especially if you have a disease like rheumatoid arthritis - which may also boost your cancer risk.

New research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis do not get fewer cancer screening tests than people without rheumatoid arthritis.

"Get tested for cancer if you have rheumatoid arthritis."

Past studies have shown that patients with chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis may not be getting enough preventive services, including cancer tests.

With few previous studies on the topic, Seoyoung C. Kim, MD, MSCE, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues set out to study cancer screening rates among people with rheumatoid arthritis versus those without the painful condition.

They found that women with and without rheumatoid arthritis were tested, on average, once every 3 years for cervical cancer and once every 2 years for breast cancer.

The researchers also found that women with rheumatoid arthritis were more likely than those without arthritis to get a Pap smear (a cervical cancer screening test), mammogram (a breast cancer screening test) and colonoscopy (a colon cancer test).

Men with rheumatoid arthritis also were more likely than those without arthritis to get a colonoscopy.

According to the study's authors, cancer is one of the main causes of death among rheumatoid arthritis patients. As such, it is good news to hear these patients are getting their recommended screenings.

Still, the authors write, "Continuous efforts should be made to improve and maintain both patients’ and physicians’ awareness of importance of preventive health services in patients with chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis."

For their study, Dr. Kim and colleagues looked at data from a large commercial insurance plan in the United States. They looked rates of screening tests for cervical, breast and colon cancer among 13,314 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 212,324 people without arthritis.

Dr. Kim received support from the National Institutes of Health, Pfizer and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Other authors disclosed support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, FDA, Booz & Company, Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, WHISCON, Novartis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Amgen, and Lilly.

The research was published July 10 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 16, 2012
Last Updated:
January 16, 2013