According to research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the problem of overdiagnosis is growing. More and more people are being told they have cancer, and are possibly being presented with daunting treatment plans for it, when they don't have cancer at all.
Dr. Gilbert Welch and Dr. William Black of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, have been studying this. They say that approximately one quarter of breast cancer diagnoses that have been determined from mammograms are actually cases of overdiagnosis. Approximately 60 percent of prostate cancer diagnoses that have been determined through the use of antigen or PSA tests, may also have been cases of overdiagnosis. And about half of lung cancer screening tests may result in overdiagnosis as well.
" 'The researchers pointed out several ways to address the problem of overdiagnosis. For starters, they suggested educating patients about the risks and benefits involved with early detection. Another strategy: raising the threshold at which screening test results are labeled "abnormal" and treatment is needed.' "