The cover story of the March edition of Consumer Reports is “The cancer tests you need – and those you don’t.” You need a subscription to access the full content, but here’s a glimpse of what’s inside.
The headings are:
Here are those eight, from CR:
From the article:
“The message that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from being screened for cancerthat is, to be tested for a cancer before you have any symptoms of itsimply isnt true.
The medical and public-health community has systematically exaggerated the benefits of screening for years and downplayed the harms, says H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H.
In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Welch found that the number of early breast-cancer cases had shot up since mammography became common three decades ago but that advanced cancer cases hadnt declined much. Welch estimated that in 2008 more than 70,000 women 40 and older were found to have small, nonaggressive cancers that were treated even though they probably wouldnt be life-threatening.
Such treatment, including radiation or the surgical removal of all or part of the breast, can cause serious complications, such as bone loss and menopause-like symptoms. And even when it doesnt lead to treatment, screening can lead to unnecessary biopsies, which can cause anxiety and pose a small risk of infection.
When it comes to screening, most people see only the positives, says Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. They dont just underestimate the negatives, they dont even know they exist.
5 questions to ask
Before undergoing any cancer screening, ask your doctor:
1. If the test results are positive, will it save my life?
2. Am I at higher risk for cancer than the average person, and if so, why?
3. How often does the test give false alarms? How often does it provide falsely reassuring results?
4. Are any other tests just as good?
5. If the results are positive, whats next?
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