Friday, April 14, 2006

Just How Prevalent Are False Positives?

According to an article entitled β€œThe Economic Impact of False-Positive Cancer Screens,” published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention in December 2004, of β€œ1,087 prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial participants enrolled in a large managed care organization ... 43% of the study sample incurred at least one false-positive cancer screen.”

This is not to say that periodic cancer scans should not be performed. On the contrary, they are essential to the early detection of cancer. However, the danger arises when a physician insists on a definitive course of action involving potentially dangerous medication, unnecessary and harmful treatments, or surgery on the basis of a single test without alerting the patient to the potential for a false positive.


At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot believe how often this happens. A friend of mine was told that she needed a double-masectomy and after getting a second opinion found out that her lumps were benign.

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While this blog focuses its attention on false positives, it is important to note that "false negatives" are just as prevelant. When my cancer was first detected (in 1996) the internet was in its infancy. Patient guides that serve to educate patients on their disease, testing protocols, and treatment methods were not as readily available as they are today. Had they been available I could have ensured that my cancer was properly diagnosed at the time it was detected, instead of 12 months later. I strongly encourage anyone who has been tested for cancer to take advantage of the information published by organizations that serve your specific type of cancer. These websites do an excellent job of converting complex medical inforamtion into an easy to understand format, as well as laying out the steps your doctor(s) should be taking to properly diagnosis you.


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