Are Preventative Health Screenings Worth The Risk?

Preventative health screenings come with apparent risks. However, doctors are not informing their patients of these risks. Patients are not prepared to decide whether these screenings are a necessary evil or just a negative altogether that’s not worth the risks. Clinical trials have enabled the positives and negatives in receiving preventative screening.

The Value In Preventative Screenings

Doctors provide their patients with preventative screenings in hopes of detecting a potential threat of illness or disease to intervene before it develops or worsens. They are aware of potential harm associated with the screening and wage against the benefits to the patient’s health. Sometimes that decision is easier, such as testing for cervical cancers, diabetes, or hypertension. The GRADE recommendation system doctors refer to help them with these choices gives a high recommendation. This system relies on research that wages the risks and benefits for many types of screenings, giving A weak recommendation or high recommendation for a patient to receive.

Breast, lung, and prostate cancer screenings would receive a weak recommendation on the GRADE system. It then turns into the doctor’s job to assess the patient’s health background and concerns and determine whether the screenings are the best outcome.

The Risks of Receiving Preventative Care

Doctors know the risks but aren’t sharing the information with patients as readily. One of the biggest risks in preventative screenings is false-positive results. Receiving news you have a serious illness is devastating enough, but to have a confusing message that the test was wrong gives out stress on the patient. The test itself is harmful, so if the patient is deemed to not have anything wrong, they are at risk for no reason.

During a clinical trial for lung cancer, 90% of the men who received a positive result indicating they had lung cancer were found to have a false positive. Many patients were probably unaware of the potential for their test to give a false positive. Detecting early warning signs is vital to save patients from unnecessary harm.

Another risk is over-diagnosis. Advancements in technology allow for even the tiniest of detections to become noticed. Some cancers indicated are not a risk for the patient due to non-progression, which is an overdiagnosis.

Better outcomes for the patient’s health rely on doctors making the soundest decisions when it comes to considering the pros and cons of preventative health screenings.