Examining the Dangers of Cancer Screening

Aug 1, 2009 by

Examining the Dangers of Cancer Screening

Cancer screening – mammograms, pap smears, PSA tests and what not – are often, if not always, touted by mainstream medicine as a means to “prevent” cancer. Early detection means a much better chance of successful treatment and thus survival, they say.

However, in reality, there is very little evidence, statistically, that cancer screening actually does help to improve survival rates or save lives. Detractors even go as far as to say that cancer screening is nothing more than a money-making machine, which would frankly be quite consistent with a lot of other aspects of pharmaceutical medicine.

For every person saved, how many are harmed? And, even if some statistics suggest benefit, the question must be asked – are those figures objective, or are they manipulated and presented to support vested commercial interests?

Here, Dr Julian Whitaker, one of the foremost leaders of alternative medicine in the United States, in an article first published on NaturalNews, brings us through some of the pitfalls of cancer screening. Read it carefully and take it seriously – this information can quite literally save lives.

Cancer Screening: Does It Really Save Lives?

by Dr Julian Whitaker

Anne is a good patient. She sees her doctor for regular checkups, has yearly mammograms, Pap tests, and colon cancer screenings, and she even paid for a full-body CT scan out of her own pocket. She figures she’s doing everything she can to make sure she doesn’t get cancer.

Truth is, Anne is doing nothing to prevent cancer. Although cancer screening is billed as a preventive service that saves lives, the best it can do is detect disease in its early stages, when it is supposedly easier to treat. Nevertheless, every year millions of Americans dutifully line up for their screenings, completely unaware that they may be doing more harm than good.

For more than 15 years, I’ve been warning patients about the downside of mammograms, PSA testing, and the overall concept of cancer screening. It hasn’t been a popular position. Today, however, there’s a small but growing band of researchers, clinicians, and expert panels who are speaking out against the unbridled use of these tests. One of them, H. Gilbert Welch, MD, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School, has laid out very persuasive arguments in an aptly titled book, Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here’s Why. In this straightforward and well-referenced book, Dr. Welch raises several concerns about cancer screening.

1. Few People Benefit From Screening
For starters, the majority of folks who are screened receive no benefit. That’s because, despite scary statistics, most people will not get cancer. Let’s look at breast cancer as an example.

According to government statistics, the absolute risk of a 60-year-old woman dying from breast cancer in the next 10 years is 9 in 1,000. If regular mammograms reduce this risk by one-third-a widely cited but by no means universally accepted claim-her odds fall to 6 in 1,000. Therefore, for every 1,000 women screened, three of them avoid death from breast cancer, six die regardless, and the rest? They can’t possibly benefit because they weren’t going to die from the disease in the first place.

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  1. Jo Firth

    Good story.
    Thankfully most of us do not get cancer, and the more we look, the more we are going to find.
    I target women under 50, and encourage them to take practical steps to immprove their health and hormonal balance, so they reduce their risk of possible diagnosis.
    Most women have breast “symptoms” of some kind – lumps, pain, tenderness, discharge, inversion, etc. Most will not be diagnosed. Knowledge is power, to reassure them they are OK, and to take steps to reduce their risk, by improving their condition and getting on and enjoying life.
    There are options out there for women of all ages, now, to monitor their breast health and look for the early clues that may cause a problem in the future. Easier to aim to nip it in the bud early.

  2. Eliz52 (Aust)

    Totally agree with you, but try being a woman and refusing a pap test. Cervical screening has always been considered mandatory unlike prostate screening. I believe it’s because the hugely expensive program (full of vested interests) rests on a knife edge and was never suitable for mass screening – a rare cancer and an unreliable test means forcing most women into testing and harming most of them to some degree.
    I was onto them from the start, but it’s been awful to see the control, disrespect, arrogance, rudeness, coercive measures, pain, indignity, humiliation and damage this testing causes to help a very small number of women and all with no informed consent. Very few women give informed consent for the test and most don’t even consent – they’re forced to have the test if they want birth control pills or HRT and the test is often required if you want to join a volunteer program or the military. Those measures are employed in the States, here doctors use the consult situation to ambush women, achieve targets and collect payments from the Govt and we’re subjected to dishonest scare campaigns by Papscreen.

    Less than 1% of women benefit from smears (around 0.65% is the lifetime risk of cervical cancer in Australia, it’s also less than 1% in the States) but 95% of American women and 77% of Aussie women will be referred after an “abnormal” pap test – almost all are false positives. Many women think these false positives were about cancer and go on to consider themselves cancer survivors. Of course, some treatment leaves no pathology so women assume they had cancer or pre-cancer that would have progressed to cancer.
    This means most women believe this cancer to be rampant – the level of fear about this cancer is out of all proportion to the actual risk of this rare cancer.
    In Angela Raffle’s book, “Screening” she mentions mouth cancer occurs as frequently as cervical cancer – few women worry about mouth cancer and we don’t have every tiny odd-looking cell blasted off or cut out, do we? Screening has created the fear, not the cancer.
    Some women who have unnecessary biopsies and treatments are left with psych issues and/or cervical damage – cervical stenosis (that can mean endometriosis, infections, surgery, infertility) or cervical incompetence (miscarriages, high risk pregnancy requiring cervical cerclage, premature babies and c-sections)…
    My younger sister had a false positive and ended up having a cone biopsy – a devastating experience, yet this procedure is often dismissed as “minor” by doctors and Papscreen.
    This testing and treatment involves a very private part of our body – yet there is zero respect for a woman’s right to REAL information and a say in whether she tests or not – it’s like running ewes through sheep dip. Women who choose not to screen are called uneducated, reckless, silly, crazy, lower-class…etc
    We get half-truths, manipulations of the truth, lies, fiddled-with statistics, scare campaigns and our doctors receive UNDISCLOSED financial incentives when they reach targets for pap tests (in the UK, NZ and Australia) – so our doctors have a potential conflict of interest. Papscreen often refer to third world rates of cervical cancer to scare and mislead women, they don’t mention false positives even though 77% of women who screen will have one and they exaggerate the risk of the cancer and the benefit of the test and they get away with it decade after decade ….I’ve never heard a Dr challenge the “information” that is provided to women.

    I don’t have pap tests, as an informed woman, doctors back off very quickly. I also declined mammograms due to concerns about false positives and over-diagnosis.

    There is no informed consent in women’s cancer screening.
    Hopefully, more articles like this will provide women with the information they need and the confidence to defend themselves in consult situations and make the right decision for their body, their level of risk. Cancer screening is an option, not a law, for men AND for women.

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