The use of screening tests to detect cancers earlier provides potential opportunities for patients to obtain more effective treatment with fewer side effects. Patients whose cancers are found at an earlier stage and treated in a timely manner are less likely to die from these cancers than are those whose cancers are not found until they are more widespread.
While there are clear benefits to screening, screening tests also carry harms. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have harms. It is important to know the harms associated with the test and whether it has been shown to decrease one’s chances of dying from cancer.
This section describes trends in the use of breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung screening tests, which have been found to detect cancers accurately for specified age groups and can reduce the risk of death from that cancer.
This section also describes trends in prostate screening tests; however, the highest grade assigned to prostate cancer screening by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a grade C, meaning that, for men aged 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer should be an individual one, and that before deciding whether to be screened, men should have an opportunity to discuss the potential benefits and harms of screening with their clinician.