Scientists Say Most Cancer Screenings Typically Don't Prolong Life

According to a recent evaluation of clinical trials involving more than 2.1 million people with six different types of routine diagnostic testing, most cancer screenings do not ultimately extend a person's lifetime.

However, according to specialists, one shouldn't postpone a colonoscopy or mammography appointment because of this. Doctors have urged individuals to receive routine cancer screenings for over a century before precision medicine and advanced therapies.

Routine screening is a crucial public health measure, according to the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization, as early diagnosis has been found to improve cancer outcomes.

Worldwide cancer mortality has considerably dropped, plummeting 33% since 1991, partly because of early identification, therapy improvements, and a smoking decline.

Only colorectal cancer screening with sigmoidoscopy, in which doctors examine the lower part of the colon or large intestine for cancer, seemed to make a difference in extending someone's life, according to the most recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

According to the research, it may add over three months to life. Mammography for breast cancer, colonoscopy, fecal occult blood testing or endoscopy (FOBT), prostate-specific antigen tests, and computed tomography for current or former smokers were the other most popular cancer screening tests that the researchers examined.

They found no significant difference in lifetime gain with these tests.

"We do not propose that all screening be discontinued. Screening tests with a positive-benefit-harm balance measured in incidence and mortality of the target cancer compared with harms and burden may very well be worthwhile."

-Research team

The current study's authors advise physicians to be more upfront about the benefits, risks, and burdens of cancer screenings rather than focusing on how they save lives.

Studies show that while cancer screenings provide a variety of advantages, there are certain disadvantages, which physicians have long been aware of. Positive screening results might show false positives, raising unnecessary concerns and necessitating costly further testing.

Sometimes, a false negative from a test might give a false sense of security. Studies show that there are some circumstances in which treatment is not necessary and may even be detrimental.

A person may be unable to add years to their life with screenings. Still, they may catch cancer early and increase their probability of surviving it and living many more productive, fulfilling years within their regular lifetime.


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