Like most people, I see early diagnosis of any disease as a positive thing. The longer one knows about an ailment that they possess, the more time they have to treat it and possibly even cure it. But, more and more doctors are disputing the benefits of early diagnosis. I came across an article today on aarp.com that proposes the opposite. In the book, Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, Dartmouth researchers and physicians H. Gilbert Welch, Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin discuss the health industry’s preoccupation with early diagnosis and suggest that it is not, in fact, healthy.
In an interview by Kaiser Health with one of the authors of the book, the doctors argue that not only is early diagnosis costly, but it promotes a “culture of sickness,” rather than health (aarp.com).
Welch, a professor at Dartmouth’s Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, suggests that the main reason for these disadvantages is overdiagnosis. Doctors detect abnormalities in people, but these people are never destined to develop actual symptoms. Early diagnosis finds so many new patients who, given time, do not even come to exhibit an illness. This can lead to expensive and unnecessary medical treatments.
Furthermore, annual physical exams are commonly performed to determine “what’s wrong” with an individual. Automatically, people assume the worst, when they are, in fact, totally healthy. This type of thinking is unhealthy. “The truth is it’s hard to make a well person better, but it’s not hard to make them worse,” says Welch.
The doctors do not totally deny the benefits of early diagnosis. For some, it can save their lives. Ultimately, there is no “right” decision about early diagnosis. It is a personal decision. But the article and interview do give you something to think about.
For the complete interview click here: http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/news-02-2011/some_doctors_dispute_benefits_of_early_diagnosis.1.html