Why Does Cancer Screening Persist Despite the Potential to Harm?
Science, Technology and Society
Population screening for early-stage cancer or cancer precursors began in the mid-twentieth century, with the goal of reducing suffering from cancer illness and lengthening average life by preventing cancer deaths. Since the establishment of cancer screening, concerns have emerged that it may be doing considerable harm; despite this, screening practices have remained relatively intractable. This intractability in the face of harm is the central problematic of my analysis. I reinterpret a large study of breast, cervical and prostate cancer screening completed recently by our Australian research group, working across empirical bioethics, public health and social science. I suggest three reasons why cancer screening might persist as it does, and thus reach conclusions about what might be required to make cancer screening systems more responsive to the potential for harm.
Open Access Status
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