Can Colon Cancer Screenings Cause More Harm Than Good?
January 10, 2008
Screenings for colorectal cancer may not benefit patients with severe illnesses, and they may even cause harm, Yale School of Medicine researchers revealed.
Their new study estimated “payoff time” -- the minimum amount of time it takes for the benefits of a test to outweigh its harm (from complications and side effects) -- for using colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer among 50-year-old men with HIV, and 60-year-old women with congestive heart failure.
They found that the screening took up to five years to payoff in the men, and nearly three years among the women. Because patients with severe congestive heart failure may live less than three years, the researchers concluded that the test could cause more harm than good.
However, among the men with HIV, who can often live longer than five years, the screening would likely be beneficial.
The findings have particular importance because current guidelines encourage doctors to offer screening to everyone, regardless of individual benefit.