Annual Cancer Screenings Slowly Being Discouraged

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Nowadays, more efforts are being targeted towards avoiding undertaking cancer screenings. Previously, it has been considered that cancer screening tests are important because people have been bound to believe a dogma that early screening and early diagnosis of cancer increases the probability of curing cancer and completely eradicating it. But right now, annual cancer screening tests are becoming a thing of the past.

New guidelines which were published this Wednesday left many medical experts at odds for some things; however, they are one in declaring that the common procedure of getting Pap Smear Tests every year is much too frequent and is probably doing more harm than good. The US Preventive Services Task Force declared that Pap Smears are best conducted and carried out at least once every three years. It can also be remembered that last week, the said experts have also agreed against conducting prostate screening PSA tests ruling that it leads to false positive diagnosis of supposedly benign tumors; leading to unnecessary surgical procedures.

Last 2009, it was recommended that mammograms have to be done at least every other year starting age 50, and that one should have a baseline mammogram record before age fifty. Today, the American Cancer Society still upholds that one should have a mammogram record beginning age 40. Also, earlier this week, it has been found out that women who have undergone mammogram at least once a year found more false positive results than those who get mammograms with the recommended frequency of every other year.

“The more tests that you do, the more likely you are to be faced with a false-positive test” that leads to unnecessary biopsies and possible harm, according to Dr. Michael LeFevre who is one of the task force leaders. LeFevre is also a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri. “We see an emerging consensus that annual Pap tests are not required for us to see the benefits that we have seen” from screening, he said.

The benefits of early screening are substantial. In fact, the cases of cervical cancer has declined in the US immensely from 15 cases out of every 100,000 in 1975 to just about 7 per 100,000 last 2008. In terms of death, 4,210 was recorded last year, and in terms of morbidity, about 12,200 have been recorded.

According to the cancer organizations, using HPV vaccines and tests, together with Pap Smear, can help improve the screening of cervical cancer. However, according to the Task Force, the evidence presented is insufficient “to assess the balance of benefits and harms.”

Despite what many critics say about this stand of the task force, the costs of the pap smear screening has nothing to do with their recommendation. “We don’t look at cost at all. We really are most concerned about harms,” said Dr. Evelyn Whitlock of Kaiser Permanente Northwest’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., who led an evidence review for the task force.



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