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Cancer Screening Tests Could Do More Harm Than Good: Reader's Digest April Cover Story
Date:3/17/2009

screening that holds too many risks.

Not only do patients sometimes get seriously hurt by these tests or the treatments that can follow but there is also a huge financial burden. Brownlee says in the article that "unnecessary therapies for cancer are a tremendous strain on our health care budget, already strained to breaking point."

According to the article, "only one cancer screening test, the venerable Pap smear, has truly slashed the risk of death. Between 1955 and 1992, according to the American Cancer Society, Pap smears cut the death rate for cervical cancer by 74 percent, and deaths have continued to decline each year. But no other test has had such a powerful effect."

Revealing statistics illustrate the way some screening tests fall short:

  • There is little evidence that PSA tests to detect prostate cancer have had a significant impact in reducing deaths. A group of men in Seattle had 5 times more PSA testing than a group of men in Connecticut but were just as likely to die of prostate cancer, according to research done by Harvard professor Michael Barry, which was published in the British Medical Journal.
  • Mammograms also offer a smaller benefit than many patients and doctors assume. A 60-year-old who gets regular mammograms shaves her risk of dying of the disease in the next decade from 7 per 1,000 to 6 per 1,000.

"Prostate screening seems to make sense," says Nortin M. Hadler, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in Overtreated America. "If it only worked."

The piece concludes by noting "many experts believe the decision to get screened should rest on an individual's values and his or her ability to handle uncertainty. Says Dr. William C. Black, MD, a professor o
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SOURCE Reader's Digest
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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