Cancer screening: Curative or harmful? : An ethical dilemma facing the physician - Abstract

Stiftung Männergesundheit, Reinhardtstraße 2, 10117, Berlin, Deutschland.


Early detection based on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) presumably can reduce prostate cancer mortality. At the same time it is associated with a comparatively high rate of overdiagnosis involving tumors that would not have become apparent without screening since they would have remained asymptomatic during the patient's entire life. Current studies show that the probability of such an overdiagnosis is 12-48 times higher than one which would save a man's life. Thus, overdiagnosis poses an ethical dilemma for physicians: their actions (screening examination) can turn a healthy individual into a chronically ill person. This profoundly contradicts the principle of medical ethics to"do no harm." An open debate on whether early detection can be reconciled with doctors' ethical duties is hampered by the implications of liability law, faulty economic incentives, and the pressures of competition as well as the empirical practice of many physicians to overestimate the benefits of cancer screening.

Article in German.

Written by:
Schaefer C, Weißbach L.   Are you the author?

Reference: Urologe A. 2011 Oct 20. Epub ahead of print.
doi: 10.1007/s00120-011-2727-z

PubMed Abstract
PMID: 22009258 Prostate Cancer Section



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