Révélations en matière de dépistage du cancer

BOSTON – L'un des débats les plus controversés de la médecine concerne aujourd'hui le dépistage du cancer, qui présente évidemment des avantages indiscutables. En effet, beaucoup estiment qu’un dépistage précoce serait logiquement censé conférer un avantage aux patients dans la lutte contre la maladie. À vrai dire, les faits n'appuient pas systématiquement cette hypothèse. Le cancer de la prostate en est un bon exemple.

Le dépistage implique l'examen en masse d'individus d'un certain âge et d'un certain sexe, sans considération de leurs antécédents familiaux ou de leur propre santé, afin d'identifier un éventuel état pathologique. Pour que le dépistage soit utile, le test conduit ou la procédure effectuée doit pouvoir identifier facilement la maladie en question, et le traitement qui suivra doit se traduire par un résultat bénéfique mesurable. Autrement dit, on doit pouvoir en arriver à une situation dans laquelle la population dépistée présente une santé meilleure que celle de la population non-dépistée.

À l’égard de certains problèmes de santé – comme un taux de cholestérol élevé – le dépistage aboutit à des résultats positifs : un simple test sanguin mesure les quantités de bon et de mauvais cholestérol dans le sang, ce qui facilite la détection de maladies cardio-vasculaires, qui entraînent crises cardiaques ou accidents vasculaires cérébraux. Les personnes bénéficiant d’un dépistage, d’un diagnostic, puis d’un traitement présentent un moindre taux d’incidents cardiovasculaires.

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