3 Best Cancer Screenings, And 8 To Avoid

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A woman getting a mammogram (credit: CBS)

A woman getting a mammogram (credit: CBS)

Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorIf I needed a new toaster or fridge, I’d quickly turn to Consumers Reports. (In fact I just did for a washer.)

They are reliable, have a good track record, and are easy to understand.

But would you trust your cancer screening recommendations to Consumer Reports? After all, your body isn’t a dishwasher, although sometimes it may feel like one.

The trusted, independent lab has analyzed the most common 11 cancer screenings, and given a plus to only three, and a “not-so-fast” to the other eight, at least when it comes to healthy adults.

CR analyzed a lot of data on cancer screenings, and took them for a test ride. Here are the three they say are worth doing:

1. Cervical cancer (pap smear), ages 21-65.

2. Colon cancer — ages 50-75.

3. Breast cancer — ages 50-75 (although 40 may be a good starting point for some women.)

The “not worth your time, money, and worry” are based on the odds of finding something at a fixable stage, as well as the odds of a false test, which might result in something like an unnecessary biopsy.

The negative ratings went to screenings in healthy adults for:

1. bladder

2. lung

3. prostate

4. skin

5. oral

6. ovarian

7. testicular

8. pancreatic

Now, a lot of specialists will howl at this list — saying all, or some, of these screenings are really important. And in some cases, I agree.

Let’s say you have a lot of moles, and some are changing. A skin exam may be a worthwhile test. And a good oral exam every six months by your dentist if you’re a smoker or drinker may be smart.

But when it comes to pancreatic cancer, there is no effective screen. The same, unfortunately, is the case for ovarian cancer.

Prostate is controversial, since the treatment may be worse than the disease.

I think the best idea to tailor each screen to each person. Risk factors, family history, personal health history, etc all factor into the decision to screen.

All in all, the list is reasonable. Maybe not perfect. But at least it should get you and your doctor talking as partners, not as a dishwasher salesman to a customer.

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