What you don’t know can’t hurt you

As a doctor friend said, “If someone thinks they’re completely healthy it just means they haven’t had a full workup.” What I think he meant is that if you go looking with the latest tools and diagnostics you’ll find something, even if it’s not really there.

That sentiment was reinforced for me today by an AuntMinnie article on overdiagnosis of lung cancer.

Overdiagnosis is common in computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screening, according to a report in the February issue of Radiology.

“Screening high-risk patients with chest CT may result in lung cancer overdiagnosis, especially in women,” Dr. Rebecca M. Lindell from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, told Reuters Health…

“Overdiagnosis, especially in women, may be a substantial concern in lung cancer screening,” the authors conclude.

At a minimum, such overdiagnosis exacts a high emotional toll on patients and their families. It can be physically and financially damaging, too when unpleasant and sometimes dangerous treatments ensue for those who don’t need it.

February 8, 2007

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