Thursday, November 30, 2006

How medical screenings cause harm. - By Darshak Sanghavi - Slate Magazine

The truth is that screening tests are just like any other drug or medical procedure, with potentially deadly risks that must be balanced with the potential benefits. The same people who would agonize over the decision to take estrogen-replacement therapy, for example, don't think twice before getting a mammogram. However, as the data indicate, they sometimes should. Screening tests can cause harm in two major ways: false-positive diagnoses and unnecessary treatment of benign conditions. Unfortunately, these problems can be masked because a little-known but vital error pervades almost every major study involving screening for deadly diseases, especially cancers—and makes the tests appear better than they really are.

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