A new study finds most cancer screening guidelines do not clearly spell out the benefits and harms of the recommended actions.
Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System examined 55 professional guideline recommendations for cancer screening or prevention. They found 69 percent did not quantify and present benefits and harms in comparable terms.
“Almost all medical interventions have tradeoffs between different types of benefits and harms,” says Tanner J. Caverly, M.D., MPH, clinical lecturer of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and a research investigator at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Center for Clinical Management Research. The researchers found that 31 percent of guidelines recommending screening presented absolute effects for both benefits and harms. Meanwhile, 55 percent presented the tradeoffs unevenly, explaining the benefit but not the harm or presenting the numbers in different ways.