Consumer Reports cancer screenings to get, or to skip

January 31, 2013 3:23:00 PM PST
Consumer Reports has come out with a new report about cancer screening tests. It says while some are helpful, others should be avoided.

Catching cancer early saves lives. But for some people, some screenings may do more harm than good. And the risk varies from person to person.

For the general population, Consumer Reports has assembled its first-ever list of cancer tests you need - and eight you may not need.Dr. Jeffrey Starke became a patient himself when his PSA levels - which look for prostate cancer - went up on 2 different occasions.

Each time, his doctor urged him to get a biopsy.

Cancer wasn't found on either one, But, Starke got a rare infection after the second biopsy and spent 4 days in the hospital.

There is still a lot of debate about the P-S-A blood test for prostate cancer.

Dr. John Santa, of Consumer Reports, says, "Even when prostate cancer is found, it may not become dangerous. And the fact is, treatment itself can cause serious side effects."

Consumer Reports says the evidence shows PSA blood tests don't significantly reduce deaths, so it doesn't recommend them unless there is a family history or other risk factors.

But this is a discussion to have with your doctor


Consumer Reports also recommends against screenings for: lung, pancreatic, ovarian, testicular, and bladder cancers.

Oral cancer checks can be a good idea for smokers, tobacco users, and people who drink a lot of alcohol - but not for most other people.

As for skin cancer checks, see a doctor right away if you notice suspicious changes in a mole, have a family history of melanoma, or a personal history of frequent sunburns.

There are three cancer screenings Consumer Reports does highly recommend.

If you are 50 to 75 years old, you should be screened for colon cancer, earlier if you have a family history.

Consumer Reports recommends a mammogram every other year for women 50 to 75 years old.

As a nurse, I think this should start at 40, or earlier if you have a family history.

And PAP tests should be done to screen for cervical cancer in women 21 to 65.

Because everyone is different so Dr. Santa urges, "Work with your doctor to determine the cancer screenings you need and when to have them."