We are well aware of public health cancer screening programs and I'm certain I'm not the only one here wondering if screening for CLL would help our community. Here's a fairly clear explanation by academics Katy Bell, Alexandra Barratt and Andrew Hayen from New South Wales, Australia, of situations in which cancer screening can be helpful - and why using cancer survival rates to promote screening, as is often done, is misleading!
As the article concludes: "Death rates are improved only where screening has led to a real benefit; they are unchanged where screening has no effect on natural disease progression.
Survival statistics, even when they are used by well-meaning advocates who misinterpret them as a measure of the success of cancer screening, are misleading. They tell us nothing about lives saved and the potential value of screening programs."
So would screening for CLL help our community? Given CLL is quite rare and the usual outcome is for the patient to go onto 'Watch and Wait", along with the confusion of whether Monoclonal B-lymphocytosis (MBL) may or may not progress to CLL, I think not. What I do think would be of value is for doctors to be more proactive in following up unusual blood test results - or being more aware of leukaemia or lymphoma as a cause worth investigating for symptoms that can quite often be dismissed.
What do you think?
Photo: This shot looks to me like some bizarre gladiator contest where a contestant with those giant hands you see in sports audiences is taking on a giant bee. I guess I need more sleep...