I had the chance to interview Drs. Carmona, Satcher, and Novello about the current state of America’s war on cancer. I’ll post each conversation in a separate blog entry. This post explores Dr. Carmona’s views on diagnostic testing and early intervention.
Dr. Val: You said that screening tests could improve outcomes in 90% of people with cancer. Tell me more about that.
Dr. Carmona: First of all, a lot of people don’t know they have cancer until really late in the game. They show up asking things like “How come this thing is growing on my chest?” or “Why does my stomach hurt?” With appropriate screening tests targeted especially towards people who have risk factors (that one can determine by asking them about family history and environmental risk factors) you can capture about 90% of cancers at an early stage. Diagnosing cancer early is the key to improving outcomes and the chance for cure.
Dr. Val: Which are the most important cancer screening tests that people are not accessing now?
Dr. Carmona: All of them. Routine breast exams, mammograms, rectal exams, colonoscopies are the most commonly missed screening exams. And science is advancing at such a rate that we’ll soon be able to test for cancer with biomarkers – that is, blood tests that will determine whether or not cancer is present or if a person is at a higher genetic risk for cancer.
We already know about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that predispose women towards breast cancer, but most physicians still don’t test for them. We need to make sure that we use all the science available to us, and set up a system that ensures that all patients get the appropriate screening tests at the appropriate time intervals. If we did that, 90% of patients diagnosed with cancer could expect improved outcomes.
*See the National Call To Action On Cancer Prevention and Survivorship*This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.