Cancer screening and mortality
The present article has brought out the controversy of the benefits of cancer screening programmes in reducing mortality. While the authors have brought out the fact that cancer screening does not save lives, the benefits of screening for certain cancers such as cervical cancer cannot be overruled. The concept of early detection by pap smear often helps in reducing the chances of mortality due to cervical cancer. Detection at a late stage does not, however, reduce the mortality. This is true even for breast cancer.
The problem with the presently available methods of early detection of cancers is that they are not very sensitive and specific and often lead to false positive results which may adversely affect the quality of life of the affected persons, including causing psychological problems. We need to develop skills to detect cancers at an early stage so that mortality can be reduced and lives saved. There is also a need to understand the natural history at the bio-molecular level so that we can better understand the stages of carcinogenesis and hence early detection could be done.
Competing interests: No competing interests