January 31, 2013
TUMOR OF CONFUSION:
Consumer Reports' cancer screening ratings offer surprising results (Melissa Breyer, Jan 31 2013, MNN)
Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2013 6:32 PMFor the latest investigation, Consumer Reports researchers moved the vacuum cleaners and cameras to the side and evaluated copious amounts of research, consulted medical experts, surveyed more than 10,000 readers, and talked with patients. They found that "too many people are getting tests they don't need or understand, and too few are getting those that could save their lives."They conclude that many patients, and even some doctors, are confused about cancer screening. Most patients do what their doctor recommends, but health care providers don't always agree on which tests are necessary. In fact, they note, research suggests that advice often varies among medical practices.Of course, for some tests and patients, the benefits do outweigh the risks; but for many other screenings and tests, magazine researchers found that the line between benefit and risk is not so clear-cut. For example, the risks of prostate-cancer screening probably outweigh the benefits for most people. For every 1,000 men between 55 to 69 screened for prostate cancer every one to four years, the data looks like this: Zero to one prostate-cancer deaths were prevented; yet three serious complications were caused by treating the cancer, including death, heart attacks, and blood clots in the legs or lungs; and 40 men became impotent or incontinent from treatment complications. The chance of being the one case in which screening prevented death is likely to lead men to still want the test performed, but the risks are surprising.