Saturday, January 20, 2018

Early Detection


We do regularly try to detect some cancers early through mammograms, colonoscopies, and PSA tests. I think most of us (meaning the general public) are comfortable with these tests as we age. But what if there was a genetic test available which you could have done regularly, every few years or whatever time frame, to test you for several different cancers before they had a chance to spread.

A new test, CancerSEEK, has been tested on more than 1000 patients and seems very hopeful.

"The CancerSEEK test looks for mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released.

It was trialled on 1,005 patients with cancers in the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, colon, lung or breast that had not yet spread to other tissues.

Overall, the test found 70% of the cancers."


But do we want it? I'm not sure. Yes it would be nice to be able to get to cancer sooner but is it worth the stress and costs? By costs, I do not mean financial (because the earlier a cancer is detected the less it costs to treat) but emotional on the patients.

I know women, who have never had breast cancer, who get very stressed by their annual mammogram and hold their breath until they get the all clear (which is sometimes in the form of a letter sent weeks later). This can be a very bad time for them.

With my medical history, do I really want another pile of stress on me? I'm not sure. Yes cancer sucks but sometimes we just don't want to know what is lying in wait for us. I am very much up in the air on this.

I think this is in the category of 'just because we can, doesn't mean we should'. Medical professionals may think this is the holy grail of cancer detection, but I kind of find it like being micromanaged on my health.

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