Do cancer screenings prevent cancer or can they cause other problems? Check out this recent NY Times article.
Years ago, the American Cancer Society used most of their resources to teach us that early self-diagnosis is the best way to prevent cancer. Years later, the data collected over years of patients visiting their doctors either for screenings or by self-screening led to harmful interventions, unnecessary tests, and in some cases, treatment for a disease that wasn’t.
For years, we have been led to believe that annual mammograms, colonoscopies past a certain age, and prostate evaluations and treatment were helpful in diagnosing disease. The truth is that many of us have not been willing to stop with these evaluations because of our fear of disease and in some cases, doctors themselves have ignored the latest research and continued to order these tests.
Old habits are indeed difficult to break however, many of these screening procedures have resulted in people being subjected to emotional and physical trauma in some cases because of the diagnostic process. In other cases such as prostate, companies are still selling their treatments for a gradually dwindling group of patients who are continuing to treat the “what if ” disease.
The idea in medicine has always been to do no harm and to use procedures when the benefits outweigh the risks. Check out this interesting discussion in the NY Times.
With Cancer Screening, Better Safe Than Sorry?
By JANE E. BRODY JULY 17, 2017
Doctors and medical organizations often advise that past a certain age, older adults can forgo various screening tests for cancer. But many patients, no matter how old or sick they may be, are reluctant to abandon tests they’ve long been told can be lifesaving.
To be sure, among my close circle of septuagenarian friends, none of us have stopped getting annual mammograms, even though I, having previously had breast cancer, am likely to be the only one among them for whom the potential benefit might conceivably outweigh the risks.
I’ve met people with no known risk for colorectal cancer who continue to get colonoscopies well past the age of established recommendations. Not to mention the countless men at low risk for prostate cancer who continue to get PSA tests, often at the suggestion of their doctors, when the best evidence says that for such men the test can result in more harm than good.