Too Much Testing Might Not Be a Good Thing for Lung Cancer
Routine screening for most forms of a cancer is a standard of care that can ultimately lead to lifesaving measures. Even so, sometimes too many screenings might not be a good thing – especially in regard to lung cancer. Many doctors are becoming increasingly concerned about over testing for this particular form of cancer and the potential for false positives presents.
Alarm bells related to over testing for lung cancer have been raised ever since Medicare announced in February it would fund annual screening tests for some long-term smokers. The agency is now providing funding for a spiral CT scan for smokers age 55 to 77 who have smoked about a pack a day for 30 years or more. This particular test was shown in a 2011 study to help reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.
While early detection can and does save lives, doctors are concerned that over testing will lead to a lot of false positives and unnecessary procedures. That 2011 study showed that nearly a fourth of all participants had numerous tests that uncovered abnormal growths. The problem, however, is that these growths turned out to be noncancerous. Even so, risky procedures, such as biopsies, were performed as a result of the false positives.
The problem with false positives is that they inevitably lead to further testing to confirm or deny findings. In doing so, they put people at risk of complications while increasing costs and adding stress to the equation.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women. While early detection is critical for providing lifesaving care, sometimes too much testing can lead people down a rocky path. People concerned about this disease should talk openly with their doctors to determine the best screening recommendations for their particular situation.