Navigating Changing Guidelines on Cancer Screening

 

Editor’s note: For members of the community who have questions about cancer screening, Cancer Today and the AACR are hosting a webinar on Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. ET. A panel of experts will outline current guidelines on screening for prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers. They will also discuss how patients and doctors can work together to make individualized screening decisions.

Following his prostate cancer diagnosis in 2000 at age 57, Thomas Farrington dedicated himself to reducing prostate cancer incidence and mortality in
African-American men by starting the Prostate Health Education Network.

Twelve years later, Farrington was shocked when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a volunteer panel of experts that provides guidance on screening and prevention, recommended against routine screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.

“We worked hard to get the level of PSA testing for black men at the same level it was for white men,” Farrington said in an interview for an article on cancer screening in the winter issue of Cancer Today, published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Farrington was concerned that research was lacking on how cutting screening might affect black men, who are at increased risk of getting prostate cancer and dying from it.

Farrington is not alone in feeling frustration in the face of shifting and sometimes contradictory screening guidelines. Guideline-makers recommend breast cancer screening at different intervals and starting at different ages, and have experienced both support and backlash from patient advocates for their various positions. There is disagreement on whether prostate cancer screening should be recommended at all.

Cancer Today discusses the reasons for disagreement on cancer screening guidelines and how scientists are working to build better evidence for who needs to be screened, when screening should start, and how often it should be done.

For instance, the WISDOM trial aims to recruit 100,000 women to help determine whether personalizing breast cancer screening based on a variety of factors, including genetics, race, ethnicity, history of benign breast conditions, breast density, and family history could lead to better outcomes. Researchers say that more precisely targeting screening to the right people could increase benefits and reduce harms.

Please join us during our webinar to further explore this important issue.

This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, a blog from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).