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Screening for cancer

Is screening for breast, cervical and prostate cancer nearly always ineffective and, for detecting the few cases where it does avert deaths, an overly expensive waste?

Medical scientists are rethinking their views on cancer by accepting that many cancers are benign. Sensible preventative maintenance of the human body requires inspection procedures that detect treatable, non-benign cancers at reasonable human and economic cost. We don’t seem to be there yet.

1 comment to Screening for cancer

  • wjr

    The statistics quoted in the argument against widespread screening are usually those on overall death rates from the disease. The claim made is that the decrease in death rate is minimal and often not significant statistically. The reason for this I suspect is that death rates are very very low both with and without screening.

    A more meaningful statistic would be a comparison of death rates for those with cancer. Of course this is not easily achieved because without screening how do you tell who has the disease. In principle one could make a valid comparison by separating those with a positive screening result randomly into two groups and treating one group and keeping the others as a control. However this be very dubious from an ethical standpoint and no doubt impossible to perform.

    Nonetheless I imagine there must be a lot of people alive today who thank screening early medical intervention for their survival. Whether they would be alive today without the screening, we cannot say. However personally I am very thankful for my doctor requiring routine PSA testing.