Monday, October 31, 2011

Cancer Screening Is Not an Unmitigated Good

I am not a medical doctor.

That being said, I find the nytimes' Considering When It Might Be Best Not to Know About Cancer sensible.
  • "Expert groups are proposing less screening for prostate, breast and cervical cancer and have emphasized that screening comes with harms as well as benefits."
  •  "Women in their 40s do not appear to benefit from mammograms and that women ages 50 to 74 should consider having them every two years instead of every year."
  • "The widely used P.S.A. screening test for prostate cancer does not save lives and causes enormous harm."
  • "Two recent clinical trials of prostate cancer screening cast doubt on whether many lives — or any — are saved. And it said that screening often leads to what can be disabling treatments for men whose cancer otherwise would never have harmed them."       
  • "A new analysis of mammography concluded that while mammograms find cancer in 138,000 women each year, as many as 120,000 to 134,000 of those women either have cancers that are already lethal or have cancers that grow so slowly they do not need to be treated."
  • "While early detection through widespread screening can help in some cases, those cases are small in number for most cancers. At the same time, the studies are more clearly defining screening’s harms."
  • "In recent years, researchers have found that many, if not most, cancers are indolent. They grow very slowly or stop growing altogether. Some even regress and do not need to be treated — they are harmless."
  • Of course, this is being debated.
Consult your local physician regarding these things. Advocate for your own and your loved ones' health.

See also: U.S. Panel Says No to Prostate Screening for Healthy Men.