Cancer Screening – Benefits and Harms

I just finished listening to the third part of a report on ABC’s Radio National Health Report programme, which is always a fascinating listen. This piece was apparently on last year also and I missed it, and all I have to say is go and download the podcast [Parts One, Two, Three].

Presented by an epidemiologist from Sydney University, this series is most thought provoking.

“Most people would say that screening to find cancer early is a good idea. Well, maybe not so good. It could be that finding small cancers earlier and earlier is doing more harm than good. According to Professor Gilbert Welch from Darmouth Medical School, New Hampshire, USA, cancer screening is a two edged sword with important harms as well as benefits.

This is part one of a special three part series which looks at how screening can unearth cancers you’d rather not know about, as well as other drawbacks of cancer screening.”

I was introduced to the concept of medical decision aids, an easily digestible format of balanced information to help people make choices about medical procedures, especially screening. ABC Online has a link to a sample decision aid up for women aged 40-ish, deciding whether they should start mammogram screening for breast cancer earlier than the recommended age 50.

Another RN programme I liked recently was a Life Matters piece: Do-It-Yourself Computer Games: An education story.

Where would you begin, if you had to make your own computer game? With the narrative, quest, point system, or the cool graphics?

And what skills do you think would be involved? One or two computer skills, perhaps? Problem solving? Art? Storytelling? Language skills? Mathematical tools? Physics, even.

We meet a teacher who’s putting that challenge to high school students, and has been doing so for years. It’s a way, she says, to both engage students, work in a cross-disciplinary way, teach problem solving, and be innovative in the classroom.

She placed special emphasis on the benefits for this cross-disciplinary approach in engaging students with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome: for kids with communication difficulties such projects can display the child’s skills in ways his/her peers can respect.

This piece can be downloaded as part of the Life Matters broadcast for Monday 27 February 2006, and the teacher is Margaret Maijers (Teacher. Head, ICT – Information and Communication Technology – New Town High School, a public school in Hobart)
[Further links for when this talk rolls off the RN front page: audio Listen Real Media | Windows Media | download mp3 Download MP3 | podcast Podcast | helpHelp ]

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