The intent of any screening test in medicine is to detect disease at an initial stage before the patient potentially develops symptoms and gets sick. For example, cancer screening is a tool which healthcare providers use to detect and find cancerous cells early on and theoretically make it easier to treat cancer and prevent its spread. However, it is essential to understand that just because a healthcare provider recommends that one get screened for cancer does not automatically mean that one has cancer. Instead, it is a preventative measure.
Various methods are used to screen and include taking a medical history, performing a physical exam, ordering lab test to detect abnormalities in blood or tissues, genetic testing and imagining procedures. It is important of people to understand just because these options are available does not mean they are free of risks – they are tools used by medical professionals, carry a risk and can result in serious injury. If concerned about a procedure or test, it is important to consult with them to understand the risks involved.
Additionally, sometimes cancer screening tests give false-positive or false-negative test results. A false-positive result means that even though there may not be any cancer, the test may be abnormal. This can cause a patient a tremendous amount of unnecessary anxiety, concern and the patient may end up getting more unnecessary tests and potentially unnecessary procedures done which themselves may carry some risk.
A false-negative, on the other hand, is when even though there is cancer the test fails to detect it. This is a serious issue for the patient because the patient may be under the wrong impression that they are not ill, and may not get treatment or may delay treatment. Misdiagnosis of cancer is a serious issue with adverse health effects for the patient.
In essence, cancer screening tests are a tool which is available to healthcare providers. They are not risk free, and may result in an incorrect diagnosis. It is always important to get a second opinion, and if a patient has suffered harm to contact a medical malpractice attorney for more information.
Source: National Cancer Institute, “What is Cancer Screening?,” accessed Sep. 15, 2014