What is more for cancer patients: increased screening or treatment innovation?

Let’s get this out of the way: both are clearly important.  Within appropriate screening, patients don’t get the treatment they need.  Further, delayed screening can make treatments less effective if the cancer has progressed or metastasized.  On the other hand, without effective treatment, screening won’t have a major impact on patient outcomes. The question is,…

Cancer screening rates

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) publishes screeening rates for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers over the past 25 years.  I have reproduced the charts below.  I wonder how the USPSTF recommendation in November 2009 that women ages 40 to 49 should not undergo screening unless they are in a high-risk group will affect mammography rates in the most recent…

Are screening subsidies enough?

The answer is ‘no.’ For instance, consider the case where breast cancer screening is subsidized, but you are uninsured an breast cancer treatment is unaffordable.  What is the value of breast cancer screening?  It is probably pretty low since if you find out you have breast cancer, there is not much you can do about…

Regional Variation in Diagnosis Frequency

For many years, the Dartmouth Atlas has chronicled how variation in medical resource use across the country.  Despite glaring differences in the cost and volume of care across the nation, regions with higher health care costs do not necessarily have better health outcomes. However, medical treatment is a two step process.  First, the physician must…

The paradox of better screening

Does better screening lead to improvements in health outcomes?  Conventional wisdom holds that this is always true.  For instance, catching breast cancer at an early stage greatly improves survival probabilities.  However, early screening can lead to a statistical anomaly where better screening appears to improve mortality rates even when treatments are entirely ineffective. Here is…