“Should I be Tested for Cancer?” Maybe Not and Here’s Why

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Diagnostic Testing For Cancer Is Tricky-Particularly early stage Breast or Prostate cancer-

Written by a credible source, Gilbert Welch is a medical doctor and a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

I found the book to be well-written, easy-to-read and key to my own understanding of the world of conventional oncology. I truly believe that this book has helped me maintain my 25 plus years of cancer survivorship.

I am both a cancer survivor and cancer coach. I’m currently working with a 92 year old man who has lived with MGUS, a pre-cancer stage for multiple myeloma, for the past 8 years. Mark, not his real name, is beside himself with worry about progressing to frank multiple myeloma.

Mark undergoes diagnostic testing every three months.

Diagnostic Testing for cancer, especially for elderly patients is a solution looking for a problem. I liken it to a dog chasing a car. What would the dog do if he/she caught the car? What does the elderly patient do if he/she discovers cancer?

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

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For decades, the American Cancer Society and others have relentlessly campaigned for early cancer detection. And the campaign has been successful – the Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that only 2% of Americans felt that there are too many cancer-screening tests. Despite this enthusiasm, expert panels of physicians and scientists, after careful reviews of the evidence, do not always endorse screening. Facing these conflicts can be distressing, particularly when confronting issues as serious as cancer.

This book offers insights that clarify the issues for patients and physicians alike. As the subtitle suggests, Welch is skeptical about screening, and his text challenges the establishment. However, Welch is not a medical outsider. He is a practicing physician, a Professor at the Dartmouth Medical School, the former editor of a medical journal, and a researcher who has helped reshape professional thinking in articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, and other key medical journals. Using the traditional medical literature, Welch raises some very challenging questions for anyone considering cancer screening.
Welch’s book provides the reader with a new way to think about testing. He tells how cancer tests may identify disease for which there is no effective treatment, or for which the consequences of treatment are worse than the consequences of the disease. Welch explains why it may sometimes be better not to know you have cancer. In fact, many of us have conditions that will never affect us.
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Why Cancer Screening May Not Be a Good Idea for the Elderly

“While such vigilant tracking of cancer is a good thing in general, researchers are increasingly questioning whether all of this testing is necessary for the elderly. Depending on a person’s health status and remaining life expectancy at age 75, screening to pick up emerging new cancers, which could take decades to grow, may not be of much benefit…”

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