Hablar claro sobre las pruebas de detección del cáncer

BOSTON –  En la actualidad, uno de los debates más encendidos de la comunidad médica se centra en la realización de pruebas de detección del cáncer, cuyos beneficios parecen más que debatibles. Es cierto que muchos creen que es lógico que la detección temprana dé a los pacientes algo de ventaja en la lucha contra la enfermedad, pero no siempre la evidencia apoya este supuesto. Un ejemplo importante es el cáncer de próstata.

Las pruebas de detección implican la toma de muestras a gran cantidad de personas de determinadas edad y género, con independencia de su historial familiar o salud personal, para identificar si padecen la enfermedad. Para que sean eficaces deben identificar con rapidez la enfermedad en cuestión, y el tratamiento que se aplique debe generar algún beneficio que se pueda medir. En otras palabras quienes se hayan sometido a ellas deben resultar beneficiados frente a quienes no lo hayan hecho.

Para algunos problemas de salud, como el colesterol alto, las pruebas de detección son un método eficaz: una simple muestra de sangre mide las cantidades de colesterol bueno y malo, facilitando la detección de enfermedades cardiovasculares que pudieran llegar a causar ataques o paros cardíacos. Quienes se someten a las pruebas, el diagnóstico y el tratamiento presentan menores índices de tales incidencias.

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