Screening for cancer is a topic of much research, discussion, and controversy. Because of the tremendous human, social, and economic implications of cancer, and the intuitive assumption that early diagnosis will improve outcome, the desire to detect and treat these serious diseases in their early stages is understandable. In spite of considerable controversy about which procedures are most effective in reducing mortality, several organizations have made specific recommendations about screening strategies for a variety of cancers. Since widespread screening of asymptomatic individuals is logistically difficult and expensive, the effectiveness of such programs must be well documented before they are generally accepted and put into practice. The goal of this review is to critically examine the published data regarding the effectiveness of screening tests in reducing mortality from cancers of the cervix and breast. (Screening for cancers of the lung and colon is addressed in a companion article.) In doing so,
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