Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rethinking Early Cancer Detection

For so long we have been taught that early detection was the answer. The earlier the better and the earlier the more lives saved. Now, it seems, that may not be true. As I have reported here before (We All Have Cancer-August 7th) we all, in fact, have cancer cells in our bodies all the time.

The dilemma is that the earlier we detect the presence of cancer cells the faster we get "treated" (surgery, chemo, radiation) and the faster we get disabled by cancer's many treatments. We do know that many cancer patients die of the treatment not the cancer. So what do you do? And now what should your doctor do?

This is complicated science and complicated ethics. There is now enough longitudinal study to show that 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer would not have died even without any treatment. (The slow growing cancers) . Ok, maybe that's worth the risk versus loss. But 60% of prostate cancer is over diagnosed--meaning those men may have had disabling treatments that were unnecessary.

But how do you know? What is your risk quotient?

There is some complicated science here. As if cancer isn't complicated enough. So this article in Sunday's Wall Street Journal is worth reading. And sharing. And discussing. It may help you ask more and better questions of your treatment team. It might help you manage the fear.

The link below is to the full article. If you have any trouble with the link simply Google: "It's Time to Rethink Early Cancer Detection". Wall Street Journal.

As the article says, language is a big factor. We haven't changed our definition of cancer in many years even though medicine has progressed. And the C word scares us into acting fast when sometimes it seems we should think more slowly.


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