January 12, 2011

THE DELUSION OF PERFECTION:

Cancer breakthrough -- or nightmare?: New cancer detection test may have downside (Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, 1/11/11, WPRI)

A simple blood test. It's able to detect minute quantities of cancer cells that might be circulating in your bloodstream.

It's reported to be able to detect a single cell. It's intended to allow cancer patients to start treatment much earlier.

It's supposed to save lives. It's a cancer breakthrough.

But it's not that simple. The test could just as easily start a cancer epidemic.

We've seen it before. Twenty years ago another simple blood test was introduced. Twenty years later over 1 million Americans had been treated for a cancer that was never going to bother them.

The test was the PSA. It is able to detect minute quantities of prostate specific antigen -- minute as in one-billionth of gram. Turned out a lot of men had "abnormal" PSAs. Many were found to have microscopic cancers, far more than would ever suffer from prostate cancer.


"[H]e was confident in his science, and felt that he could draw a magic circle round her within which no evil might intrude."


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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 12, 2011 5:20 AM
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