Tags: Health Topics | Cancer | medical tests | screening

Doctors: Some Screening for Medical Conditions Unnecessary

a woman undergoing a mammogram test
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By    |   Tuesday, 06 October 2020 11:51 AM

Some of the medical tests routinely taken by Americans may do more harm than good, wasting billions of healthcare dollars annually and, in some cases, even endangering your health or your life, say experts. Screening tests generate billions of dollars each year, and there is no shortage of hospitals, clinics and doctors willing to feed upon our fears of heart disease and cancer to recommend and profit from certain tests.

"I wouldn't say that all people should simply get screening tests," says Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, a cancer prevention specialist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Patients should be aware of both the potential benefits and the harms when they're choosing what screening tests to have and how often."

The NIH says that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published guidelines to help determine who should get screened and how often. That is an independent panel of experts in primary care, authorized by Congress, that makes annual recommendations for proper screening.

"Screening is losing favor for most cancers," says Dr. Herman Kattlove, a Los Angeles-based oncologist. "For example, screening for prostate cancer doesn't save lives and many times the cure — surgery — is worse than the disease."

Dr. Sue Curry, immediate past chair of the USPSTF, says: "The Task Force uses scientifically rigorous methods to review and assess the best available evidence about the benefits and harms of preventative services and makes recommendations for use in primary care."

Mammograms are not always the best screening choice, for example, say experts. Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, tells Newsmax that, in mammography, there are many more false positives than true positives. "These are results that indicate there may be a problem but after further testing turn out to be OK," she says. "This can be costly and can be very anxiety provoking." Ultrasounds, especially if you have dense breast tissue, may be a better choice. Women should discuss with their doctor whether or not they need an annual mammogram.

The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test has been shown to reduce deaths from prostate cancer, but overall mortality has not been reduced because of deaths and complications caused by biopsies, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Kattlove recommends that you discuss this screening with your doctor.

While a sigmoidoscopy, which examines the rectum and sigmoid colon where most cancers appear, has been shown to reduce overall deaths, a colonoscopy, in which the entire colon is examined, has become the standard of care. Fecal testing, says Kattlove, may be a better option for individuals with an average risk.

Pap smears are also controversial and may be unnecessary for women over the age of 65 or who have had a hysterectomy. Minkin says that "most cervical cancer experts point out that precancerous lesions of the cervix progress fairly slowly, so if a woman has a negative Pap smear, it would be unlikely for her to develop a true cancer in less than three years. So, an annual Pap smear may not be necessary."

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Some of the medical tests routinely taken by Americans may do more harm than good, wasting billions of healthcare dollars annually and, in some cases, even endangering your health or your life, say experts.
medical tests, screening
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2020-51-06
Tuesday, 06 October 2020 11:51 AM
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