Cancer screenings

  1. Colonoscopies save lives

    A cancer screening that really works

    The only thing better than a cancer cure is a cancer that doesn't need to be cured in the first place because your doctor caught it early.

    Docs use that line to push all kinds of cancer screenings, including procedures you don't need and some that may end up doing you more harm than good. But there's one you do need -- one very mainstream cancer screening that, surprisingly, works as advertised - colonoscopies.

    Now, I know the power of that word. When I use it in person in my clinic, it has the power to get patients looking for the nearest exit.

    By email, who knows... maybe you've already hit the "delete" button.

    I hope you haven't, because two new studies confirm that this simple, safe and (believe it or not) painless procedure has the power to save your life. Get scoped, and your risk of death from colon cancer will plunge by 56 percent.

    That makes colonoscopies one of the most effective techniques for beating any cancer of any kind.

    Other colon screenings can also help, but not nearly as much. A fecal occult test will cut your risk by a third, while sigmoidoscopy -- which uses a shorter tube and looks at only part of the colon -- can reduce the risk by 40 percent.

    The study didn't look at "virtual" colonoscopies, but other studies have shown it's not as effective as the real deal (in addition to exposing you to far too much radiation).

    But most people don't choose a virtual colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy because they think it's more effective. They choose these procedures because they think they're more comfortable -- and that's just not true.

    In real colonoscopies, you're put under general anesthesia. As a result, you don't feel a thing beyond a little grogginess when you wake up.

    During a sigmoidoscopy and virtual colonoscopy, on the other hand, you'll be wide awake -- and you'll feel plenty, which is why patients who've had real and virtual procedures prefer traditional colonoscopy by nearly every measure.

    You can read more about that right here.

    So skip the shortcuts and get yourself a real colonoscopy. Schedule it early, as studies show doctors are sharper and detect more polyps during morning procedures.

    Since you can't eat until it's over, getting it out of the way early also means you don't have to deal with hunger pangs all day.

  2. The tests seniors should skip

    Exploitation -- it's the only word that comes to mind here.

    Even as the mainstream moves away from routine cancer screenings for men and women alike, there's one group of Americans that are still getting screened regularly for cancers that almost certainly won't hurt them.

    And that's the elderly.

    These are the people least likely to need treatment even if a cancer is detected -- and least able to withstand the traumatic surgeries, dangerous drugs, and toxic chemotherapy often used to "treat” those cancers.

    But the numbers don't lie -- and the newest numbers show that 57 percent of men between the ages of 75 and 79 were screened for prostate cancer, while 42 percent of men older than 80 were actually given PSA tests.

    You have to wonder what the doctors are thinking here: They know these cancers can take decades to develop, decades an 80-year-old doesn't have. They know that even younger men have nothing to worry about in most cases. They know that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended doing away with the PSA test altogether.

    They know all this... yet they're screening anyway, and not just men.

    The same study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 62 percent of women between the ages of 75 and 79, and 50 percent of women older than 80 have been given mammograms over the past two years.

    And if PSA exams are useless for men, mammograms are every bit as useless for women -- so useless that even mainstream docs are backing away from them.

    That's because all the mammograms in the world have barely made a dent in the breast cancer death rate. These screenings have succeeded in finding harmless cancers, which then end up being treated with disfiguring surgeries and dangerous radiation.

    Similarly, the study also found that 53 percent of women between 75 and 79 and 38 percent of those older than 80 were given pap smears to test for cervical cancer.

    It's ridiculous -- and even the mainstream groups that normally back most cancer screenings agree. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends ending pap smears as early as 65, while the American Cancer Society says there's no benefit after the age of 70.

    In reality, many of these screenings have no benefit at any age. But for seniors, many of whom are already fighting health issues, these screenings, biopsies, and inevitable cancer treatments can turn the golden years into a living nightmare.

    Skip ‘em -- because in this case, what you don't know almost certainly won't hurt you.

  3. New guidelines push more mammograms

    Just when I thought we were getting somewhere with cancer screenings, yet another organization has cooked up its own set of guidelines. And it's a huge step backwards.
  4. Cancer screenings for terminal patients

    The last thing a dying man or woman needs to worry about is an illness that might hurt them decades down the road. Yet for some reason -- probably greed -- a shocking number of terminal patients are still being screened for breast and prostate cancers. Researchers examined the records of Medicare patients aged 65 and up who had been...

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