Bioethics Blogs

When It Comes to Cancer Screening, Are We All Nuts?

Washington-Post-LogoIn a recent Health Affairs article, David Asch and I wrote about how hard it can be to stop screening aggressively for things like breast and prostate cancer even when the evidence suggests we are doing more harm than good. Well, journalist Steven Petrow has a nice piece in the Washington Post looking at the good old testicular exam. Lots of nice insights, so I thought I’d share it:

Late last year, “Today” show anchors Willie Geist and Carson Daly took one for the men’s team when they underwent testicular cancer exams on live TV. Lots of predictable joking ensued, especially from co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, who ad-libbed: “When I heard what you guys were doing, I thought it was nuts!” The “attending” urologist, David Samadi of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, also took to wordplay, asking: “Who’s going to play ball first?” Geist stepped up.

Within minutes both anchors received clean bills of health along with Samadi’s congratulations for getting the exams. Samadi also encouraged the rest of maledom to perform testicular self-exams monthly in the interest of early detection, which he said can save lives — but do they?

Nearly 9,000 cases of testicular cancer in the United States are diagnosed every year — especially among men ages 15 to 34, where it’s the most common cancer — so the “Today” segment seemed like a useful public service announcement.

But unfortunately there’s no evidence that self-exams detect testicular cancer at an earlier stage, according to Durado Brooks, director of colon and prostate cancer prevention programs for the American Cancer Society.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.