Are You Being Over-Diagnosed?

(From JAMA)

Cancer screenings can find treatable disease at an earlier stage but they can also detect cancers that will never progress to cause symptoms. Detection of these early, slow-growing cancers can lead to unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. This begs the question: Are You Being Over-Diagnosed?

A survey finds that most patients are not being told about the possibility of over-diagnosis and over-treatment as a result of cancer screenings, according to report in a research letter by Odette Wegwarth, Ph.D., and Gerd Gigerenzer, Ph.D., of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 317 U.S. men and women ages 50 to 69 years to find out how many patients had been informed of over-diagnosis and over-treatment by their physicians and how much over-diagnosis they would tolerate when deciding whether to start or continue screening.

Of the group, 9.5 percent of the study participants (n=30) reported their physicians had told them about the possibility of over-diagnosis and over-treatment. About half (51 percent) of the participants reported that they were unprepared to start a new screening. However, nearly 59 percent reported they would continue the cancer screening they receive regularly even if they learned that the test results in 10 over-treated people per one life saved from cancer death.

‰ÛÏThe results of the present study indicate that physicians‰Ûª counseling on screening does not meet patients‰Ûª standards,‰Û the study concludes.

DO THIS: Ask your physician about over-treatment and over-diagnosis. Believe me the fact that you’re even asking that question will surprise him/her and beg for an answer.

NOT THAT: Don’t keep your mouth shut. You must continually inquire about your care. There are no dumb questions.