Tag Archives: media

To screen…or not to screen

My hearts sinks almost every time I pick up a newspaper or look at a news website – because there’s invariably a huge headline about some health related issue. Mostly it’s a ‘medical advance’ that in all probability will take years to become routinely available to patients – but it raises false hopes for people who need that sort of treatment.

Then there’s the headlines which really rock the boat and create so much unnecessary worry, prompting surgery visits from anxious patients. This week it was breast cancer screening.

The UK has a breast screening programme for women aged between 50 and 70. Locally, we’ve worked hard to promote it and make sure screening is available closer to home. The programme undoubtedly saves lives, but it’s also true that some women could have lived healthy and happy lives without any treatment at all.

The problem is that the medical profession can’t yet tell which cancers could become life-threatening and which wouldn’t, so anything suspicious that’s picked up by a mammogram will lead to further investigations and treatment. Most people know that treatment for cancer is not pleasant, particularly chemotherapy and it’s not something anyone would choose to have unnecessarily.

So this week’s media reports – and the resulting headlines – about a review into breast screening will now have women nationwide wondering if they should or should not go for a mammogram when they’re asked to.

It’s right that women know there is a possibility they may be treated for a cancer that may not have caused problems, but it’s not right that some may be put off being screened in the first place.

Cancer research is advancing rapidly and I am sure that in future there will be a number of new tests and techniques which could be used alongside the screening programme to make it more sophisticated. Then we can choose which cancers to treat and which can be safely left, but until then the advice I’ll be giving my patients is to go for their screening every three years. Definitely better safe than sorry where cancer is concerned.

Dr Nadeem Ghafoor

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Filed under Chair's blog: Dr David Kelly

Read between the lines

Those of you expecting some inspired commentary on this week’s cabinet reshuffle and the change of Health Secretary are about to be very disappointed…!

This week I want to talk about the health advances you read about in the papers or online.

Hardly a day goes by without the media carrying stories about the latest life limiting (or lengthening) research or news of ‘wonder’ drugs to save us all. This isn’t a rant at the media, I understand that advances in medical knowledge and treatments are exciting and readers obviously have more than a passing interest. But many of these stories are placed by research teams who are competing for funding or notoriety or need help from other professionals in their field.

Whatever the motives, it often raises expectations which translate into very disappointed patients. New drugs and treatments can take years to test and develop until we’re sure they’re safe and more importantly that they work. What you read about today may not become a reality for ages – if at all.

Please read between the lines and hold the thought that your GP is doing his or her best with what’s available to them now. You can help by taking the medicines prescribed for you exactly as we ask you to; no more and no less. That way you’ll increase your chances of being around to see some of today’s headlines become the wonder drugs of tomorrow.

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Filed under Chair's blog: Dr David Kelly