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Cancer specialist: good reason behind report of declining tests

POSTED: Friday, December 28, 2012 - 10:23pm

UPDATED: Friday, December 28, 2012 - 10:34pm

A new report shows that Americans are not getting screened for various cancers as often as in the past, and not at the rate suggested by government health agencies. But a local specialist suggests that the reduction may actually be a good thing.

Dr. Jay Brooks, Chief of Hematology-Oncology for Ochsner Health System Baton Rouge, reviewed the report and believes it overlooked key facts.

"It's nice to say everybody should get one thing," Brooks said, "but we have to look at what the cancer screening is doing for the person's overall medical health."

Dr. Brooks believes screening rates for some cancers have fallen because doctors can better identify who actually needs them.

"We've learned that women who've had a hysterectomy, for instance, do not need to have cervical cancer screenings," Brooks explained. "In prostate cancer, there has been a decline in screenings because there's been some question as to the value of the PSA test."

Some people also look at changing government guidelines, particularly regarding breast cancer exams, and wonder if they fall into the at-risk category.

But Brooks believes the quality of the tests, themselves, is not the issue.

"The screenings that we have today are excellent and they have helped contribute to the dramatic decline in cancer deaths," he said. "And I would not want people to think that stopping all screenings is the way to go, by no means."

Dr. Brooks said he gives one primary piece of advice to anyone who wants to know if a cancer test is the right thing for them.

"That you need to look at your individual health, your individual family history, and so when you sit down and talk to your doctor, that he or she will give you the risk and benefits of doing each of the appropriate screenings," he said.

The report was issued by researchers at the University of Miami, and was paid for by the National Institutes of Health. To read the full report, click here.

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