Overdiagnosis, overtreatment and the need for a fresh look at screening programmes

An article by Melinda Beck in The Wall Street Journal discusses the thorny issue of overdiagnosis and the wisdom of cancer screening. ‘Early detection has long been seen as a powerful weapon in the battle against cancer. But some experts now see it as double-edged sword’, she says, because many ‘cancers’ found are being treated although they would never have caused any harm.

A National Cancer Institute advisory panel is calling for major changes in how cancer is detected, treated and even talked about. They suggest very slow-growing and precancerous tumors that are unlikely to progress should not be called ‘cancer’, but “indolent lesions of epithelial origin,” or IDLEs, instead.

‘The idea that not all cancers are deadly is already beginning to transform treatment for prostate cancer, she says. ‘As many as 60% of the tumors detected via screening grow so slowly that they pose little threat in a man’s lifetime, experts say, and treating them with surgery or radiation carries a substantial risk of impotence or incontinence.’

Beck M. Some Cancer Experts See ‘Overdiagnosis,’ Question Emphasis on Early Detection. The Wall Street Journal, 14 September 2014.
http://online.wsj.com/articles/some-cancer-experts-see-overdiagnosis-and-question-emphasis-on-early-detection-1410724838

…Meanwhile, the second Preventing Overdiagnosis conference is currently being held in Oxford (from 15-17th September 2014).

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About bmitzi

Medical writer, author, artist. Cancer campaigner. Aiming always to improve health services and bring compassion into health care.
This entry was posted in Breast Cancer, breast screening, Campaigns, Compassion in healthcare, healthcare modernisation, patient safety, prostate cancer, Screening, Screening Mammography and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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