News Headline: M.A. Khan: You can’t ‘overdiagnose’ for lung cancer
Outlet Full Name: Providence Journal
Author Name: M.A. Khan, M.D.
I read with trepidation the Aug. 18 letter by Megha Garg (“Overdiagnosis poses risk”).
Dr. Garg writes that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s supporting CT scan lung cancer screenings in high risk populations may outweigh the benefits.
I respectfully disagree with Dr. Garg. I have difficulty in understanding the word “overdiagnosing” of lung cancer. I know of no physician who believes, nor have I have read the argument anywhere in the medical literature, that early detection of lung cancer, or any cancer, is not desirable, regardless of how it is diagnosed.
Being an educator and in the practice of lung diseases for over 50 years and who deals with lung cancer patients on a daily basis, I will welcome any screening method available to detect lung cancer early enough for improved survival and possibly cure of this cancer that consumes thousands of human lives every year. The best news I can give to my patients with lung cancer is that their cancer has been picked up early enough with the possibility of a cure.
Yes, CT, PET scans and biopsies need to be performed to establish the proper diagnosis and staging of any cancer. And yes, any of these procedures carries a certain risk but that is seldom considered as harmful as missing an otherwise treatable lung cancer.
Dr. Garg mentions a “tube in the throat,” making it sound like an evil and tortuous procedure. In medicine, this procedure is called “intubation” — an access to airways in order to maintain adequate ventilation during a procedure or an operation requiring general anesthesia and removed soon after completion of the procedure with virtually no ill effects to the patients. Intubations are also performed on a daily basis in many other life threatening situations in order to save precious lives.
M.A. Khan, M.D.
The writer is former assistant professor of medicine at the Brown University Medical School and is senior staff physician and consultant in pulmonary medicine at the Memorial Hospital, in Pawtucket.