The once widely-accepted notion that cancer screenings should be common and frequent practice is now being turned on its head. A new study released by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, advises healthy women who do not have an increased risk of ovarian cancer against getting tested frequently, if at all.
The American Cancer Society expects 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer this year. Often symptoms are subtle, and in many cases undetectable, early on.
The argument by the panel is that the screenings do not lower the chances of fatality from ovarian cancer but the procedures can lead to many false positives, causing unwarranted medical attention and heartache. According to the New York Times, most ovarian cancer is already advanced by the time it is realized. This is the latest study released by the same panel that suggested against prostate cancer screening in men and mammograms for women under 50, all for similar reasons.
Despite this information, many doctors still recommend screening, and many patients still request it. Do you think that, given the new research proving the ineffectiveness, the screening is necessary? Or do you find the tests to a waste of time, energy, and money?
In general, screening for cancer before it hits has got to be a smart move, right? A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that for ovarian cancer, the situation is not so simple. As a recent MSNBC story reported,
Women screened annually for ovarian cancer were just as likely to die from the disease as women who didn’t have regular screening, concludes a large new study that found screening did not catch the cancers earlier as it is intended to do. Calling into question the effectiveness of current ovarian cancer screening techniques, the researchers also found that more of the women screened annually had surgery to remove their ovaries and suffered complications related to false-positive test results — meaning a screening test suggested they had ovarian cancer when they really didn’t.
Will this news impact women’s attitudes not just about screening for ovarian cancer but also attitudes about screening for other types of cancer, or even the HPV vaccine? The false-positive problem is likely a huge hurdle to convincing people of the value of preventative screenings. How can we craft health messages, and improve health reporting, in ways that will best disseminate this type of information without causing people to avoid prevention behaviors or trips to the doctor?