Jury still out on some cancer screenings

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The American Cancer Society defended their early screening guidelines. It's a response to a recent New York Times article that claimed the organization was saying the benefits of early detection of many cancers have been overstated. However, some East Texas doctors said when it comes to cancer screenings, you have to consider individual cancers and the patient.

Dr. Brent Campbell, a Urologist at Memorial Health System of East Texas, says there's a lot of controversy about prostate cancer and screening for cancer in general.

"Certainly cancer screening is not without some downside and some risk, but the merit of cancer screening in properly selected patients, I think is undebated," said Campbell.  "Again, you've got to keep in mind that it's a deadly disease."

Prostate cancer is the number two cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S. so screening is something Campbell has to consider.

"An awful lot of people with prostate cancer may live years and years and years with that prostate cancer and it'll never cause them too much of a problem," said Campbell.  "Other people develop prostate cancer and within a few years they'll be dead."

Dr. Alexander Orlov said the jury is still out on some cancer screenings.

"It wouldn't be accurate to say that we're not doing enough testing or we're doing too much testing," said Orlov. "You have to look at each type of screening and each type of cancer individually.  For colon cancer, everybody age 15 and above should have a colonoscopy."

He said when it comes to other cancers, it's not so clear cut.

"Breast cancer screening is in the same category as prostate cancer," said Orlov. "The jury is still out. It remains to be seen whether early or aggressive screening for cancer, for breast cancer, is producing the results that we need."

Also, cancer screenings may not always be accurate.

"Cancer screenings have a certain false negative rate, so you could have a negative test and still have cancer," said Orlov.

For now, Campbell said what we need when it comes to prostate cancer at least, is better screening rather than no screening at all.

Both doctors said screening can cause a lot of anxiety for patients, and Orlov said patients should focus on primary prevention which means staying healthy and supporting your immune system.

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