“Early detection saves lives.”
We’ve all heard that mantra before, and it may seem nearly impossible to believe that it might not be true.
But for the moment, put aside everything you believe related to the testing of cancer.
I’m talking about those yearly mammograms that start as early as age 40… the PSA tests… and those “whole-body” scans (that you may have been sold on from that card you got in the mail).
Because many doctors are now finding that all of this careful searching for cancer is becoming nothing more than a self-fulling prophecy.
That is, if you go looking for trouble, you’re bound to find it.
And while we may be finding more cancers — especially prostate, breast, and thyroid — we’re not saving any more lives!
In fact, by treating malignances that could very well be left alone, we’re actually wrecking lives instead of “curing” cancers.
Seek and ye shall find
All this hunting down of cancer is doing one thing for sure: turning up more and more cases of it.
And the more cases docs find, the more risky, painful and disfiguring procedures they order.
Take, for example, guys with a family history of prostate cancer.
Since we’ve all been told again and again that your risk of this disease jumps when it runs in your family, they typically receive more PSA screenings — and, of course, any suspicious blood work will trigger an immediate biopsy.
But now, a new report by two prominent doctors — including Dr. Otis Brawley, who just happens to be head of the American Cancer Society — is poking some very big holes in the way most doctors think about screening for cancer.
Because according to study co-author Dr. Gilbert Welch, that so-called “risk factor” becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
As Dr. Welch says, if men with no family history were tested that much, their prostate cancer rate would jump as well!
As we’ve often told you right here in the eAlert, PSA tests and treatments for early prostate cancer do not translate to saving lives. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Guys are being stabbed, cut, and radiated for no good reason… to treat cancers that are slow-growing and have very little chance of spreading to other areas of the body.
And the same exact thing is happening with mammograms used to detect breast cancer. Time and time again, studies have found that mammography is more of a tool for finding money for doctors and radiologists than it is for helping women.
A very large and comprehensive study out of Canada that finished up in 2014 found that around 50 percent of breast cancers detected by mammography would have never caused the woman any problems if left untreated and even undetected.
That research also uncovered that mammograms do not lower the number of women who die from breast cancer.
Thyroid cancer is another one that’s “scrutiny dependent,” according to Brawley and Welch. In other words, if you look for it, you’re going to find it.
When thyroid cancer screening programs are launched, cases of the disease “skyrocket,” they noted. The mainstream may label that an epidemic, but it’s actually considered a “false epidemic.”
As HSI panel member Dr. Mark Stengler points out, papillary thyroid carcinomas (the most common form of thyroid cancer) that measure 10 mm or smaller can be safely “left alone and treated only when they show signs of becoming more aggressive.” And that’s true in 90 percent of cases!
A similar approach is advised where guys with early, low-risk prostate cancer are concerned. “Active surveillance” has been found to be the best tactic.
As for breast cancer screenings, that big Canadian study I just mentioned — as well as other research — determined that there’s no advantage in finding breast cancers with a mammogram when they were too small to detect in an exam done by hand.
All of that goes to show that the old saying “less is more” is probably truer in medicine than anywhere else!
“Too much screening has misled us about real cancer risk factors, experts say” Sharon Begley, January 1, 2018, STAT, statnews.com