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“The advantages to screening have been exaggerated.” October 23, 2009

Filed under: Medical Ethics?,Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 7:13 pm

Here’s what Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, has to say about cancer screenings:

“We don’t want people to panic, but I’m admitting that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated.”

This is such an important statement. We’ve been scolded by our health care system and by annoying public service announcements that the only way to survive cancer is to get screened regularly. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

Check out this recent NYTs article: Cancer Society, in Shift, Has Concerns on Screenings.

And here are some past WG posts on the issue:

Kosher Prostate Exam (with links to help in decision making).

Is the PSA Test Worth It?

The bottom line is that individuals must be informed of the pros and cons of screening. Educate yourself and then make a decision when- or if- you want to get screened and how often (if you choose to screen).

Additionally, screening is not cancer “prevention.” Screening is simply a picture of what already exists. Cancer prevention occurs in everyday life; engaging in exercise, healthy eating, stress reduction, reducing environmental toxins, etc. These are the most important prevention techniques that can be put into practice.

And I’m off to engage in a prevention behavior right now… sleep 🙂 (yup, it’s an important one).


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