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Detailing the problem of overdiagnosing

Many in Woodbury may subscribe to the age-old notion that “it is better to be safe than sorry.” One area where most would think that this idea certainly applies is healthcare. Recent years have seen an increased emphasis placed on living healthy lifestyles amongst the general population, which includes routine visits to one’s primary care physician. Yet while this had helped to grow the field of preventative medicine, and unintended consequence of this shift towards managing one’s health is an increase in the people being overdiagnosed.

The diagnosing of certain conditions has skyrocketed in recent years. Data compiled by researchers at Dartmouth University and shared by the Huffington Post lists the following conditions as being the most overdiagnosed in America:

  •          Chronic kidney disease
  •          Low testosterone levels
  •          Pre-dementia
  •          Thyroid cancer
  •          Breast cancer

The research data shows that in the case of chronic kidney disease, the diagnosis rate went from 1 in 58 adults prior to 2002 to almost 1 in 8 in 2014.

This begs the question of whether more people are actually getting sick, or have diagnostic methods improved so dramatically that such conditions are just that much easier to spot? Information shared by the online journal Psychology Today suggests it to be the latter, but that the general understanding of clinicians is not to the point of fully comprehending what the results they are seeing always means. For example, it is pointed out that millions of men may show evidence of having prostate cancer, yet never display symptoms, or that countless adults may be on blood pressure medication simply due to experts choosing to lower acceptable thresholds.

The danger of overdiagnosing is that the treatments prescribed to combat conditions can cause harm themselves. Thus, in their efforts to overcome disease, people may actually be harming themselves.  

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