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Press Release

December 16, 2003
Contact: CDC Office of Communications 
(404) 639-3286

Task Force Reports Information Interventions May Help Individuals Make Cancer Screening Decisions

Brochures and web-based information that individuals access independently may help them make appropriate decisions about cancer screening, says a report by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services in the January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This type of information is increasingly needed because the science related to cancer screening is difficult to communicate in an office visit, and many persons at high risk don’t have regular health care and must make decisions on their own.

The review showed that brochures and web information may help individuals make informed decisions about whether and when to be screened and the type of screening when multiple choices are available.

“We know that making decisions about cancer screening can be difficult for individuals and their families,” said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “These findings from the Task Force provide important insight about how public health can communicate effectively about the risks, benefits and other outcomes associated with screening.”

The task force reviewed interventions designed to help people make specific choices among options (including not being screened or deferring the decision). The review produced evidence that interventions generally led to increased knowledge about cancers and their associated screening tests. The review did not determine whether such strategies could help patients participate in decision making at the level they desire, result in decisions that are consistent with patient values and preferences, or improve screening rates.

The authors note that while screening tests are available for many types of cancers, the effectiveness of screening for all types of cancer has not been proven.

The findings are the result of a systematic review of the literature on informed decision- making interventions conducted by the independent Task Force on Community Preventive Services, which is supported by the CDC.

Informed decision making occurs when individuals have enough information about a disease, the screening test for it, and their personal risk level to make a choice that reflects their preferences and values, and allows them to participate in decision making at the level they choose.

The Task Force on Community Preventive Services, established in 1996, is the community-based counterpart to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, considered the gold standard for clinical preventive services. The Task Force releases its findings to a wide variety of public health decision makers as the Guide to Community Preventive Services. To date, 88 Community Guide findings have been published, providing new guidance for public health leaders making decisions about the application of limited public health resources.

For more information on the Task Force’s review of informed decision making, visit For more information on the Community Guide go to

Included in the same issue of the journal is an article on shared decision-making interventions from the US Preventive Services Task Force, which is supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and an editorial discussing the findings of the two reviews.  

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.


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This page last updated December 16,  2003

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