Healthcare News & Insights

Consumer Reports rates cancer screenings

Consumer Reports now offers ratings of cancer screening tests just like they do for cars, cameras, computers, snow blowers, etc.

A consumer watchdog group took 11 common cancer screenings and evaluated them. Three of them were recommended, but only for certain age groups. The screenings that got thumbs up were:

  • cervical cancer screening in women ages 21 to 65
  • colon cancer screenings in people ages 50 to 75, and
  • breast cancer screening for women 50 to 74.

Screenings that didn’t get a recommendation were bladder, lung, skin, oral, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic and testicular cancers.

Evidence-based reviews

The recommendations were based on evidence-based reviews from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of prevention and evidence-based medical experts appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reported ABC News Medical Unit.

According to the report, the task  force makes evidence-based recommendations that physicians consult when treating and advising patient. However, the task force’s messages were never focused on patients … until now.

Reason: USPSTF found that the notion of having “nothing to lose and everything to gain” from being screened for cancer simply isn’t true.

“When it comes to screening, most people see only the positives,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, in the Consumer Reports article. “They don’t just underestimate the negatives; they don’t even know they exist.”

And Dr. H. Bilvert Welch, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, NH, said in the article, “The medical and public-health community has systematically exaggerated the benefits of screening for years and downplayed the harms.”

In addition to using the USPSTF guidelines, Consumer Reports also analyzed research from leading journals and organization, consulted patient and medical experts and surveyed 10,000 readers.

What they found was that too many people were getting tests they don’t need and too few were getting those that could save their lives.

What now?

Consumer reports is encouraging people to consult with their physicians if they’re at a high risk for a certain cancers, and decide together what screenings or tests are necessary and effective.

It’s also advising patients to talk to their doctors and ask the following five questions before getting any screenings or tests done:

  1. If the test results are positive, will it save my life?
  2. Am I at higher risk for cancer than the average person, and if so, why?
  3. How often does the test give false alarms? How often does it provide falsely reassuring results?
  4. Are any other tests just as good?
  5. If the results are positive, what’s next?

One thing the report doesn’t encourage is people using mobile screening clinics, which seem to be popular right now. The reasoning for that is these mobile screening clinics encourage unnecessary tests, which can lead to excessive treatments and biopsies that carry their own risks for complications.

As a hospital executive, what do you think of Consumer Reports weighing in on cancer screenings and what do you think of its recommendations?




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