Over Testing for Cervical Cancer; Dangers of Unnecessary Treatment

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice

Oftentimes tests are ordered, drugs are recommended, and procedures are done even when they are unnecessary.  Sometimes the doctors even know that they should not be ordering them.  Not only is this unneeded care costly it is also hazardous to a patient’s health.  Examples of such health risks include x-rays and CT scans that expose patients to potentially cancer-causing radiation.  These tests can also lead to more tests and treatment that additional risk.  Another test that has people concerned about its over use is the test for cervical cancer.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines of who should be screened for cervical cancer.  The CDC recommends a Pap test for women between 21 and 65 years of age.  The American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all agree that women younger than 21 should not be screened.  There are several reasons for this. 

 

While cervical cancer is rare in women younger than 21, abnormal cervical cytologic findings are common, which can lead to unnecessary testing and treatments for lesions that would spontaneously regress.  Regardless of the recommendations that women younger than 21 not be tested, it is estimated that 4.7 million women in this age group have a Pap test every year in the United States.  Additionally, it has also been recommended that women who have had a hysterectomy for a benign condition not be tested.  Nevertheless, 3 million women every year who fit into this group have Pap tests.  Even for women who meet the testing guidelines, doctors still recommend testing more often that the guidelines of every three years, even when test results come back negative.

 

Even if the issue of cost, which is significant, is not debated, Pap testing these two groups of women can result in more harm than good, given the potential for additional unnecessary testing and unnecessary treatment.  However it is difficult to get doctors to do less testing and to get patients to accept less testing.  One reason for this are concerns over liability.  Failure to diagnose a problem, especially one that can cause significant injury or death if left untreated is a common cause of litigation.  Given this it is not likely that doctors will stop ordering unnecessary tests for patients.

 

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] .  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com

 

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