Cancer Screening Cautionary Tales
By Sandy K. Johnson

Next time your doctor orders up a routine cancer screening test, ask a few questions.

Not everyone needs cancer screening – it depends on your age, your genes and your medical history, said Dr. Kenny Lin, professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. Lin told NPF fellows that some screens can actually be harmful.

“If there’s a new screening test out and we don’t know what the harms are, you should be cautious,” just as you would hesitate to take a new drug with unknown side effects, he said.

Lin said journalists reporting on new tests or drugs should cover these bases: cost, harms, proven benefits, how strong is the scientific evidence and whether there are alternatives.