That's the end of a post I wrote in 2009, which is quoted chez Instapundit this morning (and sending me traffic). Glenn is linking to something about men not going in for the kind of routine screening tests that women tend to get. He quips: "It’s all about fairness. When women’s life expectancy is reduced to match men’s that’ll be fair. It’s Buffett-rule logic applied to health care. . . "
Ouch! Anyway, there's also a new article at the NYT pushing us back about screening:
Certainly, the rationale behind screening seems obvious. The earlier cancers are diagnosed, the more often lives will be saved, right? With enough screening, we might even stop cancer.Usually curable at any stage? I'm just going to move on and assume my guess about why is true.
If only. Finding cancer early isn’t enough. To reduce cancer deaths, treatment must work, yet it doesn’t always. Second, it must work better when started earlier. But for some cancers, later treatment works as well. (That’s why there is no big push for testicular cancer screening — it is usually curable at any stage.)
... So how can we be confident that getting a screening test regularly is a good idea? The only way to be sure is to look at the results of randomized trials comparing cancer deaths in screened and unscreened people. Even when screening “works” in such trials, the size of the benefit observed is surprisingly low: Generally, regular screening reduces fatalities from various cancers between 15 percent and 25 percent.Wait. I'm trying to catch up with your metaphors, NYT. I'm picturing the typical NYT reader assuming: The diamond ring is my breasts. The pack of gum is your testicles.
What does that mean? Think about a “20 percent off” sale at a store. Whether you save a lot or a little depends on the item’s regular price. You’ll get huge savings on a diamond ring, pennies on a pack of gum.