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How the mighty (cancer screening tests) have fallen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 by: Randall Neustaedter OMD
Tags: cancer, screening tests, health news

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(NaturalNews) Three of the most widely used screening tests in medicine have taken a hit lately and been cast into disfavor or abandoned.

The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test has been condemned as useless in saving lives and accused of leading to unnecessary surgical interventions. This test, which had previously been popular as a screening tool for prostate cancer in men over 50 is now reviled. It not only does not reveal cancers that lead to loss of life, but it leads to unnecessary biopsies and surgeries that can result in impotence and incontinence. It is no longer recommended.

Mammograms have also run aground amidst accusations that they cause the very problem they are intended to prevent - breast cancer. The radiation risk from repeated mammograms puts women at a higher risk of getting breast cancer, not a very good trade-off when alternatives are available. And mammograms too lead to aggressive treatment which may not be necessary in many cases. A better testing tool is breast thermography, which detects heat changes from abnormal tissue growth. Thermography does not involve any exposure to radiation.

And now colonoscopies have been questioned as well. An editorial in the Nov. 9, 2011 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that colonoscopy as a screening tool has not been adequately investigated for benefits and harms. Colonoscopy is expensive and prone to overdiagnosis and overtreatment as well. The primary result of colonoscopies is the removal of benign polyps, which are not cancerous. A better strategy, these authors suggest, may be to screen for blood in the stool with a simple test and perhaps perform limited flexible sigmoidoscopy before recommending a full colonoscopy. The strategy of screening for blood and performing a sigmoidoscopy has been shown in controlled studies to reduce mortality from colorectal cancer, but no additional benefit has been shown from performing an additional colonoscopy.

Perhaps our focus should shift from unproven, expensive, and invasive screening tests to a strategy of prevention with supportive measures. Certainly limiting alcohol and tobacco use are proven methods of reducing cancer risk. Avoiding known carcinogens in the form of petrochemicals in household products, pesticides in foods, and skin care products (soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, deodorants) makes sense.

Taking antioxidant supplements is another preventive measure that can help avoid abnormal tissue growth and the deleterious effects of aging on cells. A potent antioxidant program could include resveratrol, alpha lipoic acid (or r-lipoic acid), astaxanthin, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and n-acetyl-cysteine (a precursor of the body's own antioxidant glutathione). Taking a high quality multi-vitamin supplement can also supply the cofactors necessary for detoxification and prevention of oxidation in the body's tissues, supporting healthy organ function.

About the author:
Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD, has practiced and taught holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay area, specializing in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, author of The Holistic Baby Guide, Child Health Guide and The Vaccine Guide. Visit his website, www.cure-guide.com, to register for a free newsletter with pediatric specialty articles and follow him on Facebook, at Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD.

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