Over the past few years, I’ve been taking a hard look at mass screening programs. Educational surveys showed that almost 40% of participants believed screening to be preventive in that they would actually prevent prostate cancer – that they could stop it from happening, like a vaccine – by screening. Over 85% believed abnormal screening results to be a definitive cancer diagnosis. This, coupled with overtreatment of men with the resources to pay for care – many of whom take advantage of 3-5 free screening events per year on top of the screening they receive from their primary care MD, and the apparent disinterest in caring for underserved men picked up at a mass screening “event” compound my unsettling feeling about these nobly rooted efforts.
In sharing these concerns with a good friend, the issue of screening underserved men came to a head for me as I realized how few of those of us who are comparatively privileged understand life of destitute and homeless persons. The comment that resonates with me is “even if they receive no treatment, they get more from these events than they are you used to – someone is touching them.” Anyone who believes that it is extraordinary for a homeless man to have a needle placed in his arm, or to have his intimate body parts invasively “examined” is just a tad delusional… If that is in fact our intention, why don’t we sponsor chair massages for these guys? Isn’t that a whole lot less weird than screening them without treating any disease that is found – and if treatment is provided, leaving them to figure out how to manage the side-effects associated with treatment all on his own with no resources?
Where is compassion and empathy in all of this? We really need to back up and advocate for education and holistic care for those with limited resources…
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