As we are still very much on the ‘cycle of failure’ with cancer, I can’t help but think we have been doing it wrong for so many years. I have put together a few thoughts about screening, which many people believe we should be increasing. Personally I don’t at this time.
Cancer screening is a process of testing for cancer before any symptoms appear. The goal of screening is to find cancer early, when it may be easier to treat or cure. However, screening is not without risks and limitations. Some screening tests may cause harm, such as false-positive results, overdiagnosis, overtreatment, or complications from invasive procedures. Therefore, it is important to make informed decisions about whether to undergo screening or not.
In this blog post, we will discuss some of the factors that you should consider when deciding about cancer screening. These include:
Your personal risk of developing cancer
- This depends on many factors, such as your age, gender, family history, lifestyle, and environmental exposures.
- Some people have a higher risk than others because of genetic mutations or inherited syndromes that increase their susceptibility to certain cancers.
- If you have a high risk of developing cancer, you may benefit more from screening than people with average or low risk. However, you should also be aware of the potential harms and limitations of screening, and weigh them against the benefits.
- You should also consult your doctor about the best screening options for your situation.
The benefits and harms of the screening test
- The benefits of screening are that it may detect cancer early, when it may be easier to treat or cure. Early detection may also improve your quality of life and survival chances.
- However, not all cancers that are found by screening are life-threatening or need treatment. Some cancers may grow slowly or never cause any symptoms or problems. These are called over diagnosed cancers. Treating over diagnosed cancers may expose you to unnecessary harms, such as side effects from surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy .
- Another harm of screening is that it may produce false-positive results, which means that the test suggests that you have cancer when you do not. False-positive results may cause anxiety, stress, and additional tests or procedures that may be invasive or risky .
The quality and availability of the screening service
- The quality and availability of the screening service may affect the accuracy and effectiveness of the screening test.
- You should choose a screening service that follows evidence-based guidelines and quality standards for performing and interpreting the test.
- You should also check if the screening service has a system for follow-up and referral in case you need further tests or treatment.
- The availability of the screening service may depend on your location, insurance coverage, and cost. You should consider if you have access to a convenient and affordable screening service that meets your needs and expectations.
Your preferences and values
- Your preferences and values are important factors in making informed decisions about cancer screening.
- You should consider how you feel about the potential benefits and harms of screening, and how they affect your quality of life.
- You should also consider your personal goals and priorities for your health and well-being.
- Some people may prefer to undergo screening because they want to reduce their uncertainty or anxiety about having cancer. They may also value the potential benefits of early detection and treatment more than the potential harms of overdiagnosis and overtreatment .
- Other people may prefer not to undergo screening because they do not want to deal with the stress or inconvenience of testing or follow-up. They may also value their current health status more than the potential benefits of finding cancer early .
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding about cancer screening. The best decision for you depends on your individual situation and preferences. You should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of screening for different types of cancer, and ask any questions that you have. You should also seek reliable information from credible sources, such as reputable websites, organizations, or publications.
Remember that you have the right to accept or decline any screening test that is offered to you. You can also change your mind at any time if your circumstances or preferences change. The most important thing is to make informed decisions that are consistent with your values and goals.
My personal view, is that the more we look for cancer, the more we will find. Creating an even bigger issue for the nation. I believe we should be a lot more prevention focussed instead. As always these are my personal views based on my experiences. I’m sure there will be many who disagree with my views. Please feel free to share your own below.
: Harms and Benefits of Cancer Screening – PubMed
: The pros and cons of screening – GOV.UK
: What is cancer screening? | How does cancer screening work?
: Cancer Screening Overview (PDQ®) – NCI
: Cancer Screening Guidelines Lack Information on Harms – NCI