Cancer Screening Controversy

Anyone who is keeping up with the medical world has heard of the newly arisen doubt surrounding cancer screenings. More specifically, their effectiveness at preventing cancer has come into question. Of course, there are several moving parts involved in cancer screenings that must be separately examined to come to any real conclusion.

There is a difference between disease-specific mortality and overall mortality, as The BMJ described in their study about why cancer screenings need to change. Disease-specific mortality is looking at a person’s living in terms of one specific disease, such as cancer. Overall mortality, however, refers to a broader picture. The evidence claiming that cancer screenings lower mortality rates are only valid for people with tumors. Apparently, overall mortality can be affected by situations that stem from getting screened for cancer.

Cancer screenings are not perfect. There is a fairly large percentage of cancer screenings that result in a false positive. There has also been a rise in the the misdiagnosis of cancers that are not harmful. These blips in the system lead to cancer treatment for individuals who may not need it. For example, treatment for prostate cancer involves hormonal therapy. This hormonal therapy significantly raises the risk of heart attacks in men.

Basically, the screenings cannot distinguish between lesions that need to be removed and those that do not, and can lead to unnecessary procedures for people who may not need them.

So, what can be done about these screenings? Cancer experts agree that the entire way we go about screening for cancer needs to change. The real issue here is that there is not enough evidence to prove that screening for cancer is beneficial to an individual’s overall mortality. Therefore, the medical industry must increase the number of people that get screened on a yearly basis, and run a number of trials. This would, however, cost billions of dollars.

Until that money is available for such screenings and tests, cancer experts must be more truthful about both the benefits and risks of cancer screenings. Currently, the medical industry admits only the upside of cancer screenings to the public, but this much change in order to allow individuals to make informed decisions about whether or not to get screened.

As a medical professional, I am dedicated to the health and quality of life of patients. I believe that everything having to do with an individual’s health should be explained in its entirety, without bias or the hiding of information. Honesty leads to informed health decisions by patients. I would suggest cancer experts adopt this mentality as well, in order to prevent cancer screenings from becoming a thing of the past.