Look Who's Making Cancer Screening Recommendations

For the first time, Consumer Reports issues ratings of cancer screening tests.

The print and online Consumer Reports (also available in Spanish) is a well-recognized source of information and guidance for consumers. Consumers typically use Consumer Reports ratings when making purchasing decisions for things like cars and appliances. Now, for the first time (March 2013 issue), Consumer Reports has issued its ratings of cancer screening tests.

Healthcare providers need to be aware of these recommendations, as it is likely that patients and the public will be asking questions about them, and possibly utilizing them when making decisions to undergo, or forego, cancer screening. The Consumer Reports recommendations are based on evidence-based reviews from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). USPSTF, an independent panel of experts appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The USPSTF recommendations target healthcare providers while the Consumer Reports recommendations target the public.

To help clarify when consumers should use cancer screenings and when they should skip them, Consumer Reports rated each screening test and its usefulness for different age groups. Screening for cervical cancer received Consumer Reports' highest score, and is recommended for women age 21-65. Colon cancer screening received the top score for people ages 50-75, but screening is less valuable for people ages 76-85 and least valuable for those ages 86 and older and age 49 and younger. Consumer Reports recommends screening for breast cancer for women 50-74, and women in their 40s or those ages 75 and older are advised to consult their healthcare providers to determine if the benefits outweigh the harm based on their individual breast cancer risk factors. Screening tests for bladder, lung, skin, oral, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic and testicular cancers are not recommended by Consumer Reports, which makes sense since evidence of their efficacy is lacking.

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