November 14, 2014 – Screening Compromise


Anchor lead:  Inflammation can compromise some screening tests, Elizabeth Tracey reports

If you’re a current or former smoker, the ability of screening tests to detect lung tumors may be compromised if you have specific infections, common in certain regions of the US, a recent study found.   William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says this impact of inflammation is seen in other screening tests as well.

Nelson: Specificity was reduced from 75% down to 61% so that was in a sense an estimate of how common that was in those regions but I think if you look more broadly at some of the processes that we use, PSA screening is a good example of that.  What happens as men get older is inflammatory processes and benign enlargement each cause backleak of the PSA so that PSA can be elevated in the bloodstream having nothing to do with cancer.   :25

Nelson says awareness of the potential impact of inflammation rather than forgoing screening is the appropriate response.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.