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Why Overdiagnosis is an Issue

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Thanks to new, improved technology, doctors are capable of picking up on more warning signs for harmful diseases. However, this has led to the over-diagnosis of many diseases. 

Steven Woloshin, M.D., M.S., and a professor at Dartmouth Insitute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice explains why and how this could be harmful.

"The problem of overdiagnosis is big and growing because, with the increasing use of high-resolution diagnostic tests, it's easier to pick up smaller, early, mild disease. The hope is that by picking things up early, we can prevent conditions from becoming bad. But some things are never destined to get bad. And all treatments have side effects."

He further explains how this can be an issue by saying, "It's hard to take someone who is feeling well and make them better--but it's really easy to make them worse."

Woloshin gives three examples of when people are over diagnosed. 

  • People are diagnosed with a disease even though they show no symptoms because of improved testing. 

For example, slow-growing cancer can be found in people, but "won't progress to make a person sick."

  • New findings have led to more symptoms and "risk" related discoveries when it comes to certain diseases. This makes it harder for people to be "normal."

Dr. Woloshin recalls when several people were diagnosed with high cholesterol because the "definition of high cholesterol was lowered."

  • Aging sometimes gets misinterpreted as disease symptoms.

Dr. Woloshin gives an example of when this occurs: "Do you get up and walk around at night sometimes? Must be restless leg syndrome." 

According to Huffpost, when people find they have been diagnosed with a disease, it's only natural for them to want to get treated immediately. However, Dr. Woloshin believes this is not always the solution to the problem. He advises everyone to ask their doctor several questions and to always "be cautious about tests and treatments."


Category: Medical Malpractice

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