Early cancer screens are an idea whose time has come. While the early diagnosis may lead to lifesaving treatment, it may also lead to treatments and procedures that do more harm than good.
Doctors had known this for years before medical journals advised not running PSA tests in males older than 75. These slow-growing cancers are often not why people in these age groups die, and many who underwent surgeries or radiation were left with impotence and some like my dad also developed incontinence years later.
The American Cancer Society after all the millions they collected had only perfected a breast cancer screening that was years later found to be ineffective as an accurate diagnostic step. Mamograms were thought to lead to early diagnosis of breast and when done yearly exposed women’s breast tissue to cancer-causing ionizing radiation and procedures that may have been harmful. These scans are now done less frequently due to newer evidence-based Canadian protocols.
Medical companies according to the NY Times are now developing tests that can diagnose cancers early. Some of these tests are very expensive and may not be a great idea.
Blood Tests That Detect Cancers Create Risks for Those Who Use Them
The tests screen for cancers that often go undetected, but they are expensive and some experts worry they could lead to unnecessary treatments without saving patients’ lives.
By Gina Kolata June 10, 2022
Jim Ford considers himself a lucky man: An experimental blood test found his pancreatic cancer when it was at an early stage. It is among the deadliest of all common cancers and is too often found too late.
After scans, a biopsy and surgery, then chemotherapy and radiation, Mr. Ford, 77, who lives in Sacramento, has no detectable cancer.
“As my doctor said, I hit the lottery,” he said.
Tests like the one that diagnosed him have won praise from President Biden, who made them a priority of his Cancer Moonshot program. A bill in Congress with 254 cosponsors would authorize Medicare to pay for the tests as soon as the Food and Drug Administration approved them.