I became alarmed reading an article this morning on OncologySTAT. Apparently, better imaging technology is leading to lots of “false positives.” In other words, doctors think they see something which actually isn’t there.
So a patient is treated for cancer and recovers. Problem is: The patient never had cancer in the first place! Here is an excerpt from the article, Better Imaging Doesn’t Always Mean Better Diagnosis, Expert Says, originally published in The Gray Sheet. December 13th:
Overdiagnosis Can Lead To Overstating Treatment Benefits
Overdiagnosis – the diagnosis of a disease more often than it is actually present – is a major problem stemming from the screening of more people with more advanced tools, Black suggested.
“With the overdiagnosis problem, you falsely label someone with the disease, you treat them for something that they don’t really have, and worst of all, what you’ve learned from your experience is that you thought you did a really good thing,” Black explained.
“But not only is it the worst thing you can do to somebody, but you actually use it as justification for doing more.”
Because physicians and researchers do not know which individual patients are overdiagnosed, treatments that appear to lead to positive outcomes may actually be unnecessary, at least in some cases.
For me, the worst thing about all of this is there isn’t really a solution. Would you want to be the patient who says “That’s OK, doctor… I will skip treatment because I don’t want to contribute to the “over diagnosis problem.”
Remember when life seemed so simple when we were younger? So many challenges to solve and so little time! My cancer can’t take me next year… I’ve got too much to do in 2011!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat