Advanced Cancer Patients Still Getting Cancer Screenings

Despite lack of meaningful benefit, mammograms, PSA continued
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with advanced cancer continue to undergo common cancer screening tests that are unlikely to provide benefit because of their shortened life expectancy, according to research published in the Oct. 13 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Camelia S. Sima, M.D., M.S., of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues conducted a study of cancer screening procedures in 87,736 Medicare enrollees aged 65 years or older diagnosed with advanced lung, colorectal, pancreatic, gastroesophageal, or breast cancer. The purpose of the study was to assess the degree to which patients with advanced cancer continue getting routine cancer screenings. Individuals without cancer matched for demographic data were used as controls.

Women with advanced cancers continued to receive mammography screening (8.9 percent versus 22 percent of controls) and Pap test screening (5.8 percent versus 12.5 percent). Men with advanced cancers received PSA testing (15 percent versus 27.2 percent), and advanced cancer patients of both genders continued to receive lower gastrointestinal endoscopy (1.7 percent versus 4.7 percent). Advanced cancer patients who had been receiving a screening test before their cancer diagnosis were most likely to continue getting these screenings.

"The most plausible interpretation of our data is that efforts to foster adherence to screening have led to deeply ingrained habits. Patients and their health care practitioners accustomed to obtaining screening tests at regular intervals continue to do so even when the benefits have been rendered futile in the face of competing risk from advanced cancer," the authors write.

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