Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why

Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why

Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why

Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why

Synopsis

A physician and public health expert challenges the notion that detecting cancer early always saves lives.

Excerpt

Everybody knows someone who has had cancer. My father died of cancer when I was in medical school. His sister died of cancer. So did my mother-in-law. Two of my next-door neighbors have had cancer. One of my closest high school buddies just learned he has cancer. Six friends and family members: my experience is probably not dissimilar from yours. There seems to be a lot of cancer out there, and that is scary.

We are all scared of cancer. It has the reputation of being a horrible disease—a part of your own body gone hopelessly awry. It grows uncontrollably. It spreads in mysterious and unexpected ways. It eats away at normal tissue. It ultimately weakens and kills its host.

Even doctors are scared of cancer. I was reminded of this when attending one of my colleague's lectures on disease prevention at Dartmouth Medical School. John has always been known for giving informative but humorous lectures, and this was no exception. He was showing a series of New Yorker cartoons mocking the national obsession with avoiding heart disease. One showed a panting jogger being scrutinized by two bystanders. One remarks to the other, “I hear exercise doesn't really help you . . .

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