Thursday, March 20, 2014

DANGERS OF CANCER SCREENING

According to an article in the March 10, 2014 issue of Time magazine called  The Cost of Chasing Cancer, excessive cancer screening can cause unintended harm, stress, and waste.

Dr. Makary, the author of the article, had one patient who had a full-body CT scan revealing a pancreatic cyst. The patient, after months of agonizing and putting stress on his marriage, he opted for surgery. The cyst was found to have no threat to his health yet the surgery resulted in a debilitating complication and $25,000 in unnecessary costs. 

A study mentioned in Time followed 89,000 low-risk women for 25 years and found that yearly mammograms did not prolong their lives. In addition, many needless surgeries and X-rays were taken.  I have voiced my concern over the risks of yearly mammograms actually increasing risk of cancer. There is a safer (but no covered by insurance), less painful, and more effective way of detecting breast cancer and that is method if thermography screening.   
Another study mentioned in the Time article found that taking daily aspirin for low-risk adults to prevent cardiac arrests can cause significant cardiac and gastrointestinal bleeding that offsets its benefits. According to Dr. Makary, doctors are also re-evaluating PSA tests for men and pap smears for women due to the risks of false positives and unnecessary surgeries. 

Then there is the elusive colonoscopy which the health industry claims is safe and the benefits out way the risk. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, serious complications from colonoscopies include perforation of the intestines, gastrointestinal bleeding, paralytic ileus (obstruction of the intestine due to paralysis of the intestinal muscles), nausea, vomiting, dehydration, abdominal pain, myocardial infarction (heart attack), angina, heart arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, respiratory arrest, hypotension (low blood pressure), shock, and syncope (fainting). There is also risk of infection from probes that aren't cleaned. Yes, the probe used on you was frequently used on someone else. This fact alone would have me running for the nearest exit.  Serious complications including death average about .5% of colonoscopies performed or about 70,000 per year. That is 40% higher than the expected deaths of 50,000 from colon cancer for 2014. 

If the statistics on colonoscopies didn't scare you, then read the story of one previously very healthy man who had a routine colonoscopy at the age of 48 (Roar of Wolverine) and ended up needing an intestinal transplant.  He spent months in the hospital. He couldn't sue the doctors or the hospital because he signed a waiver when he got his colonoscopy. If the procedure had such low risk, wouldn't you need such a document?

As far as cancers goes, it's better to prevent cancer than to deal with it after the fact. For tips, see prior postings Cancer - 20 Ways to Reduce Your Risk and Top Ten Causes of Breast Cancer.


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