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Consumer Reports Find Certain Cancer Screenings Unnecessary

Update Date: Feb 01, 2013 07:14 AM EST

Out of the 11 cancer-screening tests available, the recent Consumer Reports have found eight of them to be easily avoidable by patients who are in the low-risk group.

The reports rated the 11 cancer-screening tests available according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The ratings were based on the necessity of performing these tests on a particular age group. They found that tests to identify ovarian, testicular and pancreatic cancer were the least effective and were consequently given the lowest marks.

Pancreatic cancer screenings cannot diagnose the disease while it is still curable, ovarian tests do not successfully diagnose the disease, and most testicular cancers can be diagnosed and cured without screening. Also bladder, lung, prostrate, skin and oral cancer-screenings have been found to be avoidable, as their results are often confusing and hence they hamper the treatment.

The report found cervical, breast and colon cancer-screening processes to be most effective, and has also recommended all females between 21 and 65 to have a regular Pap smear test to identify cervical cancer. Women between the age of 50 and 74 have been suggested breast cancer screening, and people between 50 and 75 years of age should go for colon cancer screening.

"The medical and public-health community has systematically exaggerated the benefits of screening for years and downplayed the harms," H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. said in the report.

"When it comes to screening, most people see only the positives, they don't just underestimate the negatives, they don't even know they exist," said Otis Brawley, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society.

"The marketing message that early detection saves lives is simple and compelling, but the reality as we understand it today is much more nuanced. The problem is how to get that more complex message to the public when it's so different than what they've come to believe," Laura Nikolaides, M.S., director of research and quality-care programs at the National Breast Cancer Coalition, said.

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