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HERTS

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"WEALTH OF WONDERS"

SOMETHINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW...

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CATCHING IT EARLY

Posted on 18 August, 2014 at 9:55 Comments comments (284)
UNDER NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE REGULATIONS, THERE IS NOW MORE INTENSE PRESSURE ON WOMEN TO TAKE THE TEST WITH GREATER FREQUENCY AS THE FEE PER TEST BECOMES PART OF A DOCTOR'S BREAD AND BUTTER WORK. 
 
DOCTORS IN BRITAIN GET BONUS PAY ONLY IF MORE THAN 50 PER CENT OF WOMEN ON THEIR LISTS RECEIVE THE TESTS, AND TRIPLE THE BONUS PAY IF 80 PER CENT TAKE IT. BUT WHO WOULD QUARREL WITH BENEFITS OF A SIMPLE, PAINLESS, RISK-FREE TEST THAT PROMISES TO ERADICATE A COMMON KILLER OF WOMEN?
 
NOBODY, IF IT ACTUALLY WORKED. THE PROBLEM IS THERE IS NO CONVINCING EVIDENCE ANYWHERE TO SUGGEST THAT IT DOES.
 
PROFESSOR JAMES MCCORMICK OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AT DUBLIN'S TRINITY COLLEGE, AN EXPERT ON MASS SCREENING TESTS, WHO STUDIED MUCH OF THE AVAILABLE MEDICAL LITERATURE ON THE SUBJECT, HAS CONCLUDED: 'THERE IS NO CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT THIS SCREENING IS BENEFICIAL, AND IT MAY WELL BE DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD.'
 
BY HARM HE MEANS THAT MANY THOUSANDS OF WOMEN ARE BEING SUBJECTED TO RISKY TREATMENTS THAT COULD AFFECT FERTILITY FOR A CONDITION THEY DO NOT HAVE OR WHICH COULD REVERT TO NORMAL.
 
FIRST OF ALL, IT'S HARD NOT TO THINK, ONCE YOU EXAMINE THE FIGURES, THAT MEDICINE HAS BACKED THE WRONG HORSE. CERVIAL CANCER IS NOT THE MASSIVE KILLER IT'S OFTEN MADE OUT TO BE. ALTHOUGH SOME 20,000 WOMEN DIE FROM CERVICAL CANCER EVERY YEAR IN THE UK, THAT REPRESNTS LESS THAN ONE-SIXTH OF THE NUMBER OF WOMEN WHO CONTRACT BREAST CANCER.
 
IN THE HEALTH SCANDAL, AUTHOR DR VERNON COLEMAN SAYS THAT CERVICAL CANCER DOESN'T EVEN MAKE THE TOP 10 CAUSES OF DEATH AMOUNG WOMEN, FALLING BEHIND BREAST, LUNG, COLON, STOMACH, OVARIAN, EVEN PANCREATIC CANCERS. AND ONLY 1.6 OF EVERY 1,000 WOMEN WITH ABNORMAL SMEARS GO ON TO DEVELOP CANCER.
 
THE SMEAR TEST HAS ALSO NEVER BEEN PROVEN TO SAVE LIVES IN ANY COUNTRY WHERE IT HAS BEEN INTRODUCED.
 
IN FACT, EVERY STUDY SHOWS THAT IT IS MAKING VIRTUALLY NO IMPACT.
 
AND NOW A MAJOR NEW OFFICIAL STUDY CONFIRMS THAT CERVICAL CANCER HAVEN'T VARIED IN TWO DECADES, DESPITE VIRTUALLY UNIVERSAL SCREENING. THESE FINDINGS ARE BASED ON MONITORING NEARLY A QUARTER OF A MILLION WOMEN IN BRISTOL OVER 20 YEARS. IN 1992, THE DEATH RATE WAS SIMILAR TO THAT OF 1975, WHEN CONTINUOUS SCREENING WAS INTRODUCED.
 
EVEN IF SCREENING WERE BETTER SET UP IN UK AND THE US, THE PROBLEM LIES WITH THE VERY MEDICAL FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE TEST IS BASED. MOUNTING EVIDENCE SUGGESTS THAT THE SMEAR CAMPAIGN MAY BE BASED ON A FAULTY ASSUMPTION: THAT ABNORMAL, OR 'PRECANCEROUS', CELLS ON THE CERVIX LEAD TO CANCER.
 
THIS ASSUMPTION HAS BEEN INFERRED FROM TWO FACTS: 1) THAT CERVICAL CANCER PROGRESSES SLOWLY AND, 2) IF CAUGHT EARLY ENOUGH, CAN BE CURED.
 
MEDICINE ALSO DOESN'T REALLY UNDERSTAND THE USUAL PROGRESSION OF THIS KIND OF CANCER, A FACT THEY HAVE TACITLY BEGUN TO ADMIT. SOME CERVICAL CANCERS APPEAR TO REGRESS IF LEFT ALONE, WHILE PROGRESS SO RAPIDLY THAT THE THREE-TO-FIVE YEAR GAP RECOMMENDED BY MOST SCREENING PROGRAMMES WOULD FAIL TO PICK THEM UP IN TIME.
 
ON THE FRAGILE FOUNDATION, WOMEN WITH AN ABNORMAL SMEAR ARE FRIGHTENED AND STIGMATIZED BY THE TERM 'PRECANCEROUS' WHEN NO ONE KNOWS WHETHER IT IS APPROPRIATE OR NOT.
 
BESIDES THIS CONFUSION OVER THE SIGNIFICANCE OF VARIOUS RESULTS THE TEST IS SO INACCURATE AS TO BE VIRTUALLY POINTLESS. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT A PAP SMEAR WILL PICK UP THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE CANCER, AND A FAIR LIKELIHOOD THAT YOU WILL BE TOLD YOU HAVE AN ABNORMALITY THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY EXIST.
 
IN ONE STUDY, THE AUTHORS ADMIT TO FALSE-NEGATIVE RATES OF BETWEEN 7 AND 60 PER CENT.
 
IN ANOTHER REPORT, ONE IN EVERY FIVE CERVICAL CANCER DEATHS WAS DUE TO POOR MANAGEMENT OR IS DIAGNOSIS BY DOCTORS. IN ONE IN EVERY SEVEN OF THESE CASES, THE SMEAR TESTS HAD BEEN READ AS NORMAL. RE-ANALYSIS OF THE SLIDES SHOWED THAT EARLY ABNORMALITIES HAD IN FACT BEEN PRESENT, BUT WERE MISSED.
 
LARGE NUMBERS OF SMEARS ARE ALSO TECHNICALLY NOT UP TO SCRATCH. WITH THIS KIND OF TERRIBLE BATTING AVERAGE, THE LIKELIHOOD IS THAT SCREENING NOT ONLY ISN'T GOING TO PICK UP YOUR CANCER, BUT COULD SET YOU ON THE ROAD TO POTENTIALLY RISKY TREATMENTS WHEN YOU DON'T NEED THEM.
 
IN ONE RECENT STUDY, REFERRING WOMEN WITH MILDLY ABNORMAL SMEAR TEST RESULTS FOR THE MORE INVASIVE EXAMINATION PRODUCED NO MORE FAVOURABLE OUTCOME THAN ADOPTING A POLICY OF WATCHFUL WAITING.
 
THE WOMEN SHOULD ONLY BE REFERRED FOR COLPOSCOPY IF THE SMEAR CONTINUES TO SHOW ABNORMALITY.
 
EXCERPT FROM 'WHAT DOCTORS DONT TELL YOU' BY LYNNE MCTAGGART.
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