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Cancer screening guideline changes and detection rates

Although routine screenings for certain types of cancer may be beneficial for early detection, some Pennsylvania health care providers may change their approach to ordering such testing based on relaxed guidelines. In the case of prostate cancer, for example, a 2012 change in recommendations has led to a reduction of nearly 20 percent in screening among a couple of important demographic groups. This change has been accompanied by a reduction in early detection rates as well.

The reason for the changed recommendations is that members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force noted that routine testing was often causing negative results for men. For example, some surgeries were performed unnecessarily. In some cases, cancers that were identified were slow-growing, posing minimal health threats. The treatments for these issues were often worse than the cancers themselves.

While the guidelines for screening were relaxed, the task force making these recommendations did not suggest that there should not be any screening. African-American men, for example, are considered to be in a high-risk category for prostate cancer. Similarly, those with a family history of cancer should continue to participate in early screening. However, the issue becomes a little more uncertain for those who are not in high-risk groups. Ideally, patients and providers should discuss the testing options and guidelines to determine the best path forward. An individual who is not informed of the options might not be tested as needed.

Patients who have not been advised of their options for cancer screenings might wonder if they have grounds for a medical professional negligence case if they are later diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. Although legal action could be warranted in some cases, an attorney representing such a patient will find it necessary to evaluate the circumstances contributing to such a claim. An informed patient who refuses screening might not have reasonable grounds for such a claim, but an individual who has been refused such a screening might have good reason to take further legal action.

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