Risks of early cancer screenings may outweigh benefits

January 31, 2013 5:18:37 AM PST
We assume that early detection save lives but that may not always be the case.

For the first time ever, "Consumer Reports" has rated 11 different cancer screening tests taken by millions of patients every year.

Surprisingly the group found that most of these tests should be avoided.

A recently released analysis reveals many cancer tests have been oversold to the general population and the risks outweigh the benefits.

Tests for pancreatic, lung cancer and the PSA test are among the tests that may not be effective.

Dr. Jeffrey Starke took a test for prostate cancer and was told he had a high PSA level.

He then underwent two biopsies. No cancer was found but he nearly died after getting a bacterial infection.

"I became very, very sick with what is called sepsis, which is a bacterial infection that landed me in the hospital for four days," Starke said.

"Elevated PSA levels don't necessarily mean cancer is present. But such levels can scare men into undergoing riskier tests," Consumer Reports' Dr. John Santa said.

There are three tests the group analyzed that are well worth getting but it depends on your age.

Colon cancer screening can be beneficial for people aged 50-75 and mammograms for women aged 50 to 74 every other year.

Pap smears are recommended for women ages 21 to 65 but only every three years.

These are guidelines for the general population and not those at higher risk. Your doctor should be able to help you figure out what's best for you.