Science has proven extremely successful at quantifying certain risks in healthcare. But when it comes to setting public health policy, including cancer screening recommendations and guidelines, science only goes so far.
That’s where values come in, according to Tania Lombrozo, psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In a recent article published online by NPR, Lombrozo asked readers to put themselves in the shoes of a 45-year old woman with no symptoms or history of breast cancer and answer a simple question: Should you get a mammogram?
“If you follow the American Cancer Society's recommendation, the answer is ‘yes’: You should begin routine mammography screening for breast cancer at age 45,” she wrote. “But if you follow the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation, the answer is ‘no’: You should probably wait another 5 years.”
The decision about which guidelines to follow, according to Lombrozo, comes down to your own personal values: How much do you value avoiding unnecessary scans and false-positives as compared to the value you place on early detection?
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