Tag Archives: early detection

Experts question early breast cancer screening push

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a 42-year-old Democratic representative from Florida, is advocating legislation pushing for early detection and breast cancer screening for women between the ages of 15 and 40. Her proposals come on the heels of the dramatic revelation that she spent the past year struggling with and defeating breast cancer. However, her proposal has met with resistance from the scientific community on the grounds that no reliable form of early detection exists for the age group in question, according to Lesley Clark of McClatchy Newspapers.

wasserman-schultz

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The Cancer Letter‘s Paul Goldberg has chronicled the controversy, detailing expert efforts to educate Wasserman Schultz and co-sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the limitations and dangers of early screening (subscription needed).

In recent weeks, several prominent scientists and public health experts attempted to explain to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that their bill to introduce breast cancer screening in junior high school could do more harm than good.

These experts included the chief physician of the American Cancer Society, an NIH cancer prevention expert, and a prominent breast cancer epidemiologist, who attempted to acquaint these lawmakers and their staff members with the fundamentals of epidemiology.

For the McClatchy story, Clark spoke with experts who picked the bill apart, disputing everything from current knowledge of breast-cancer risk factors in younger women to the effectiveness of self-examinations in that age group.

In a March press release, Wasserman Schultz laid out her views on the importance of screening:

“Some people might say I was lucky. While I certainly was fortunate enough to have access to good health care, I didn’t find my tumor early because of luck. I found my tumor early because of knowledge and awareness. I knew that I should perform breast self-exams, and I was aware of what my body was supposed to feel like. We need to ensure that every young woman in America can rely on more than luck. Their survival depends on it.”

Wasserman Schultz may want to consider the expert input, keeping in mind what she said after the Terri Schiavo controversy (from Jewish Times of South Jersey): “The Congress is not an objective body. It is a partisan, political body. Our members are not doctors or bioethicists. We are elected officials.”

(Hat tip to Gary Schwitzer’s health news blog.)

Reporter joins DNA risk-analysis study

VoiceofSanDiego.org‘s Randy Dotinga took part in the growing trend of using genetic analysis to determine risk levels for certain diseases. Dotinga wrote one story after the test itself, and another after his results came back. Dotinga learned that he may be more inclined to pick up colon cancer and a little less likely to get Alzheimer’s. In the process, he also learned that nobody really knows just how useful these tests are.

That’s where Dotina and about 2,600 others come in. In exchange for deeply discounted genetic tests, Dotinga and other test subjects will fill out regular questionnaires for the next 20 years of their lives. The study aims to find out just what folks do with information gleaned from genetic testing, as well just how accurate the testing is.

To hear Dotinga tell it, genetic testing seems similar to regular cancer screenings, in that the benefit in early detection of problems may be outweighed by the cost of testing and the detection of harmless problems and the unnecessary procedures that may result.

“If you get back a report saying you are at risk for 10 things, you have 10 to-dos,” said (Jason Bobe, director of community for Harvard University’s Personal Genome Project). “You may spend a whole bunch of money on a diagnostic odyssey to see if you have these conditions. Along the way, we may save a lot of lives, but spend a lot of money on people getting unnecessary medical care.”