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Considerable proportion of patients with advanced cancer continue to undergo common cancer screening
Date:10/12/2010

A sizeable proportion of patients with advanced cancer and a life expectancy of only a few years continue to undergo common cancer screening tests that are unlikely to provide meaningful benefit, according to a study in the October 13 issue of JAMA.

Cancer screening programs, such as mammography, Papanicolaou test, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and colonoscopy, evaluate asymptomatic patients for the detection of early forms of cancer and have contributed substantially to the decline in deaths from cancer. "Although the benefits of cancer screening are compelling for most members of the population, its value is less certain for patients with concurrent illnesses that severely limit life expectancy. In the extreme situation of patients with advanced cancer, screening will lead to over diagnosis (detection of a cancer which, if not found by active search, would not affect survival) in virtually all cases when a new malignancy is found. In addition, patients may be subject to unnecessary risk due to subsequent testing, biopsies, and psychological distress," the authors write. Current cancer screening guidelines do not directly address the appropriateness of screening for individuals with terminal illness, according to background information in the article.

Camelia S. Sima, M.D., M.S., of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and colleagues examined the extent to which patients with advanced cancer continue to undergo screening for new cancers and identified characteristics associated with screening. The study included data on 87,736 fee-for-service Medicare enrollees ages 65 years or older diagnosed with advanced lung, colorectal, pancreatic, gastroesophageal, or breast cancer between 1998 and 2005, and reported to one of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) tumor registries. Participants were followed up until death or December 2007, whichever came first. A group of 87,307 Medicare enrollees without cancer
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Contact: Courtney DeNicola
denicolc@mskcc.org
212-639-3573
JAMA and Archives Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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