Here at ACSH, we have long felt that the public is bombarded with so many messages regarding their health, that sifting out the right answers for themselves can be nearly impossible. In The New York Times today, the editorial Mixed Blessings does a great job of highlighting the difficulties that both patients and doctors face determining when cancer screenings are appropriate.
The general outlook on screenings, as presented by the mainstream media as well as reflexively adhered to by many doctors, is that screenings are ultimately beneficial, even lifesaving. While cancer screenings can save lives by making earlier diagnosis and treatment possible, there is important evidence that suggests that screenings can lead to over-diagnosis which comes with its own set of problems and hardships for patients. This can include unnecessary biopsies and surgical procedures, as well as anxiety and depression in patients. There is also information suggesting that screenings save fewer lives than one might have thought.
We are pleased to see that The New York Times is acknowledging the negative impacts of over-screening and over-diagnosing as legitimate in relation to frequent cancer screening recommendations.