Which cancer screening tests are really necessary?

Gary Schwitzer writes a nice piece on the hype surrounding cancer screening tests. Evidence-based guidelines from the USPSTF are often ignored by mainstream media, who write pieces glamorizing the latest, largely unproven, cancer screening modalities. Here are some reminders for journalists:

* Newer isn’t always better.
* More isn’t always better.
* Screening doesn’t make sense for everyone.
* Many screening tests do good; many also do harm.

To be clear, some tests like cervical cancer and breast cancer screening have been shown to save lives.

Too often however, mainstream media uncritically reports the benefits of ovarian or lung cancer screening, without adequate evidence to back up their claims. Equal footing needs to be written about the tests’ complications, such as false positives leading to unnecessary, invasive procedures.

topics: cancer screening, preventive medicine

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