Family Health News: Consumer Reports Is Now Ranking Cancer Screenings

I don’t know about you, but before I make any major purchase (and even sometimes fairly minor ones) I check Consumer Reports. My budget is usually pretty limited, so I want to make the smartest use of my money that I can.

But while I’d never buy technology without checking out its rankings, I don’t always do the same thing  with my health care dollars.

Consumer Reports is now tackling the idea of ranking cancer screenings, using scientific evidence to determine which screenings are most effective. Using evidence-based reviews from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), Consumer Reports has boiled down information that’s usually only geared to physicians.

“The USPSTF has great evidence-based data, the contents of which was not being translated to patients,” said Dr. John Santa, who runs Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center, in a press release. “We saw there was a need to get this information to consumers, so we did.”

Screening tests for cervical, colon, and breast cancers are the most effective tests available, according to Consumer Reports’ ratings.  But most people shouldn’t waste their time on screenings for bladder, lung, oral, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, skin, and testicular cancers. Screenings may still be appropriate for people at high risk for ovarian and pancreatic cancer, but the tests aren’t likely to identify disease at a curable stage.

Consumer Reports recommends that patients ask their doctors a series of questions before undergoing any cancer screening, such as the following:

  • If the test results are positive, will it save my life?
  • Am I at higher risk for cancer than the average person, and if so, why?
  • How often does it provide falsely reassuring results?
  • Are any other tests just as good?
  • And, if the results are positive, what’s next?

The full report is available online and will appear in the March issue of Consumer Reports.

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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