Cancer screening has become routine in certain areas of the US. However, statistics show that for every life saved, 10 patients who screen regularly are overtreated and/or overdiagnosed. Overtreatment and overdiagnosis can be harmful for the patient – costing them time, money, emotional distress, and may come at the expense of their health. Doctors do not tend to have conversations with patients about overtreatment and overdiagnosis, and even when they do, patients have a difficult time understanding these concepts. A study showed that after discussing overdiagnosis with a doctor, patients would continue their screenings but would not adopt new ones with the 10:1 odds. This demonstrates an “emotional attachment” to cancer screening that doctors may need to work to change.
1. What is the cost of overtreatment and overdiagnosis?
2. What is more financially sound: screening which can include overdiagnosis and treatment or less screening and more expensive surgeries at later stages of cancer?
3. How has the public’s view of cancer affected rates of overtreatment and overdiagnosis?
4. How can doctors have this conversation with patients?