Which Cancer Tests Do You Really Need?
WebMD News Archive
Cancer Tests: Perspectives continued...
Some doctors took issue with the decision to use the task force recommendations as the basic source.
"I'm disappointed they followed the task force guidelines, because we feel they are inadequate to protect women," says Debra Monticciolo, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology's Quality and Safety Commission and vice chair of radiology at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, Texas.
"Right now, we can't cure breast cancer, so we really need to find cancers early," she says. Research has found the best way to do that is by yearly mammograms beginning at age 40, she says.
The recommendation to avoid PSA tests refutes evidence that they work, say Dipen Parekh, MD, a professor and chair of urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"There is no question the decline in the incidence of advanced prostate cancer is due in large part to PSA screening," he says.
However, the recommendation for women at low risk for ovarian cancer not to seek screening is a good one, says J. Matt Pearson, MD, assistant professor and a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The lifetime risk of ovarian cancer in the general population is low. When you screen for a cancer that is not common, he tells women, "you are more likely to find a benign abnormality that pushes you toward [unneeded] surgery."
Cancer Tests: Making the Decision
Santa recommends educating yourself about cancer screening tests, then talking to your doctor about whether the benefits outweigh the risks for you.
"Don't go to a mobile van, don't go to a mammogram party," he says.
"Don't believe a billboard on the highway that tells you to get a PSA test when it comes from a hospital that has a robotic prostate cancer surgery program."
Cancer Prevention: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Lifestyle
"If you are serious about preventing cancer, you don't smoke, you exercise, and you try to get to a normal weight," Santa says. Obesity has been linked with about 4% of men's new cancers and 7% of women's, he says.
Getting to a normal weight may especially lower the risk for uterine and esophageal cancers.
Regular exercise can reduce colon and breast cancer risk.
Smoking is linked with lung cancer as well as cancers of the larynx, oral cavity, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas.