Overdiagnosis occurs when people are diagnosed & treated for conditions that will never cause them harm and there’s growing evidence this is happening increasingly. A large Canadian study found a third of people diagnosed with asthma may not have the condition. One in three screening detected breast cancers may be overdiagnosed. Some argue osteoporosis treatments do more harm than good in low risk women.
Many factors drive overdiagnosis:
1. commercial & professional vested interests
2. legal incentives & cultural issues
3. sensitive tests capable of detecting tiny “abnormalities”
4. Widening disease definitions
5. Lowering treatment thresholds
The cost of wasted resources that could be better used to prevent and treat genuine illness is substantal. The main problem of overdiagnosis lies in a strong cultural belief in early detection, and deep faith in medical technology.