The American Cancer Society is rethinking its advice on screening for breast and prostate cancer amid studies showing that the tests can miss the deadliest forms of the disease, and in some cases lead to dangerous, unnecessary treatment. The society is working on a new message stressing that cancer screening comes with risks as well as benefits, and urging people to make sure they understand both before they are screened.
Widespread screening has led to a huge increase in diagnosis of breast and prostate cancers, but without a corresponding drop in mortality rates. The problem is that screening can't yet detect which tumors are harmful and which will likely vanish on their own, experts say. Some doctors fear greater discussion of the risks might turn people away from screening altogether. ”The fact that screening is no panacea does not mean that it is useless," one biostatistician tells the New York Times.