Prostate And Breast Cancer Screening – To Be Or Not To Be?

November 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

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There have been a lot of controversies when it comes to the idea of either screening   cancer or detecting it early.

Many scientists and medical personnel are divided on the two sides of the coin when it comes to checkout which should be the best approach that will eventually provide the victim better cure in the long run.

Opinions are still divided as supporters of screening and those against screening continue making points. The following is an article highlighting the opinions of experts in prostate and breast cancer early diagnosis:

A controversial study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that raises questions about the value of routine mammogram screenings is just the latest in a series of papers raising alarms over some forms of cancer treatment.

Earlier this year, another study concluded that most patients diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer will live just as long if they simply watch their cancers rather than have them surgically removed.

At the root of both studies is a newly developing view of early cancer diagnosis, particularly for prostate and breast cancer. Some epidemiologists and biostatisticians like Dr. Donald Berry of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of  Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, argue that broad-based screening has resulted in over-diagnosis of cancer.

The problem, they say, is that some early cancers develop into large malignant tumors, while others regress and never become a problem. While these small initial clusters of cells once escaped the notice of doctors, they are now detected by sophisticated screening.

“The problem is that we do not yet understand the biology of cancer well enough to know which cancers are important to find early and which can be ignored,” Berry wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Their position, however, is by no means universal. Some doctors have roundly criticized their statistics-based research, calling it unscientific, because it does not rely on randomized trials.

Dr. Daniel Kopans, a senior breast imager at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, has accused Welch and others of targeting screening as a means of reducing healthcare costs.

Kopans says talk of “fake” cancers is “simply malicious nonsense.”

“Mammography does not cause ‘over-diagnosis,’ ” Kopans said. “Unfortunately, pathologists are not yet able to distinguish cancers that will be lethal if left untreated from those that do not need treatment.”

Still, the idea that screening is not a silver bullet, particularly when fighting breast cancer, has many adherents.

“Early detection is a really nice message — it makes you feel in control,” said Dr. Susan Love, an oncologist and the head of the Susan Love Research Center in Santa Monica. “But it doesn’t address our current understanding of how cancer works.” Source.

So, what’s your take on this issue if you are a doctor? Should screening for these cancers be encouraged, or should it be limited to save costs and prevent side effects of unnecessary treatments?

Whatever flip of the coin you are, what really should matter is the overall health of the man or woman in the long run.

Early detection of prostate cancer or breast cancer can actually help in early treatment so that the malignant tumors do not become invasive.

One fact that proponents and opponents of early screening have come to agree with is that more studies still need be done to discover which cancer will eventually become aggressive and needing immediate treatment.

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