3 Cancer Screenings You Need (and 8 You Don’t)

Consumer Reports just released ratings of 11 cancer-screening tests, a first ever for the publication. See which prevention methods made the grade.

Consumer Reports—yup, the same group that tells you which vacuum cleaners and baby monitors to buy—has released a new set of ratings that has nothing to do with household products. Customers can now log on and view ratings for cancer-screening tests the same way they would for any other product. And here’s an interesting twist: Customer Reports only recommends three of the 11 common cancer screenings they tested—and even those come with age-group restrictions.

So which screenings got the green light? Cervical-cancer screenings for women ages 21 to 65 and colon cancer screenings for people ages 50 to 75 earned top ratings. Breast-cancer screenings for women ages 50 to 74 also received high marks, according to ABC News.

To determine the ratings, Consumer Reports editors combed through piles of research, consulted numerous medical experts, talked with patients, and even surveyed over 10,000 readers. In the end, screenings for bladder, lung, skin, oral, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic and testicular cancer didn’t pass muster.

As has been a common refrain lately, Consumer Reports warns that people shouldn’t fall for the hype that early detection always save lives; the risks of screening tests are often greater than they seem—and they sometimes do more harm than good.

“When it comes to screenings, most people see only the positives,” the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer Otis Brawley told Consumer Reports. “They don’t just under estimate the negatives, they don’t even know they exist.”

Some of these negatives, which were published in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, include unnecessary treatment like radiation or surgery, which can lead to serious complications, as well as unnecessary biopsies that carry a chance of infection and increase patient anxiety.

Consumer Reports notes that while some screening tests do have benefits that greatly outweigh the risks, there are many in which the risks and benefits are more equally balanced. They recommend having a in-depth conversation with your doctor to determine which preventative tests are right for you.

Photo: Shutterstock

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