Cancer Screenings: Who Should I Listen To?

    For many years, medical experts have been urging Americans to seek regular and timely screenings for a variety of cancers, including cancers of the prostate, colon, cervix, and breasts. Now, many experts are publicly contradicting the generally accepted axiom, concluding that more testing is not necessarily useful, cost effective, or indicative of better outcomes.

    What Is Usually Recommended?

    To date, most doctors and researchers have recommended certain screening tests on a regular basis, although there are differences in the details of these recommendations:

    • PAP smears have long been the gold standard for the early detection of cervical cancer.

    • Mammograms are often recommended every two years for women over 50, and only for women under 50 who have particular risk factors. Meanwhile, others recommend mammograms for any women over 35, but opinions differ based on the organization.

    • PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood tests and digital prostate exams are generally urged for men over 40, although some professionals question the efficacy of these tests.

    • A colonoscopy every five years is the widely accepted norm for the early detection of colorectal cancers in those Americans over 50, as well as those aged 40 and above with a positive family history and other risk factors.

    • CT scans for the detection of lung cancer are sometimes performed for those thought to be at risk.

    What is the Current Controversy?

    Recent reports and publications show widely differing opinions regarding the efficacy and overall need for certain cancer screenings. Some experts state that certain tumors are too slow growing to be life-threatening, thus early detection is an unnecessary expense that leads to expensive and equally unnecessary treatment.

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