ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Acupuncture Eases Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Acupuncture May Help Restore Lost Sense of Smell
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Tips to Ease an Aching Back
Brazilian Mint Tea Naturally Good for Pain Relief
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Scams and Shams That Prey on Cancer Patients
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Study Links Pesticides to Birth Defects
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Trans Fat Labeling Gets Tricky
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Pollution Particles Impair Blood Vessel Function
Vest Monitors 'Individual' Air Pollution
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
FITNESS
MRSA Infections Can Bug Fitness Buffs
Exercise 30 Minutes a Day? Who Knew!
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Stressed and Exhausted: An Introduction to Adrenal Fatigue
More Single Women Are Having Babies
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Help Your Kids Stay Active
MEN'S HEALTH
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Add your Article

More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- The more cancer screening tests you undergo, the higher your risk of having at least one false-positive result, researchers say.

While that conclusion may seem like common sense, it's not something that patients or doctors often consider, suggest the authors of a study in the May/June issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

False-positive results from routine cancer screening can cause undue worry and in some cases lead to unnecessary biopsies or treatments, experts note.

In the new study, "after 14 tests total, over half of the people in our study had a false-positive result. No test is perfect, and you would expect to see it go up over time, but how rapidly the risk went up was surprising," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jennifer Croswell, acting director of the office of medical applications of research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

"It's important to know ahead of time the risk of false-positives," she said. "Screenings have to be thought of like any other medical intervention and it's important to have the discussion about the risks and the benefits."

Croswell and her colleagues reviewed data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, which included nearly 70,000 participants. The study volunteers were between the ages of 55 and 74, and were randomly selected to receive either normal care or more intensive screening.

Those in the normal-care group were offered screening through their own private physicians as usual. Those in the intervention group were offered a baseline chest X-ray along with a yearly follow-up for two years for non-smokers and three years for smokers to check for lung cancer; a baseline flexible sigmoidoscopy to check for colorectal cancer, along with a three- or five-year follow-up; annual tests for cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) and a transvaginal ultrasound yearly to check for ovarian cancer in women; and an annual digital rectal exam to check for prostate cancer in men, as well as a prostate-specific antigen test.

No information was included on mammography for women in either the intervention group or the usual care group.

For those who had 14 screening tests during the study period, the cumulative risk of having at least one false-positive was 60.4 percent for men and about 49 percent for women. The cumulative risk of having to undergo an invasive diagnostic procedure due to a false-positive test result was almost 29 percent for men and just over 22 percent for women.

Croswell said the researchers weren't sure why the false-positive rate was higher for men, but it likely had something to do with the tests that were studied.

"The fact is that screening tests aren't diagnostic," said Robert Smith, director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society. "A certain risk of false positives and false negatives are to be expected. You can try to very aggressively reduce the false-positive rate, but then you also cut into cancer detection rates," he explained.

"Most people place a higher priority on finding cancer early than preventing false-positives. I think the public often understands that false-positives happen," said Smith. But, he added, "We really need to do a better job of explaining to adults that there is a plus side and a down side to screening. We need to do a better job of letting people know what to expect, and that screening tests aren't perfect."

In another study in the same issue of the journal, researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, take a different look at medical errors, and focus on the types of errors that patients make. While the study didn't attempt to rank which medical errors patients are most likely to make, the researchers did try to identify the types of errors patients might make.

They found that patient errors could be classified into two broad categories: action or mental errors. Action errors are related to patient behavior and may include coming late to an appointment or not following directions when taking medications. Mental errors are when a patient has compromised thought processes, memory problems or knowledge deficits. Examples of mental errors include forgetting to take medications or a failure to understand the doctor's instructions. The authors suggest that future research should try to account for these errors and find ways for clinicians and patients to work together to reduce errors.

More information

The American Cancer Society's Web site lists which cancer screenings you need.



SOURCES: Jennifer M. Croswell, M.D., acting director, office of medical applications of research, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.; Robert Smith, Ph.D., director of cancer screening, American Cancer Society; May/June 2009 Annals of Family Medicine

Last Updated: May 11, 2009

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