Screening and Skepticism

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If you could undergo a simple screening test for a disease, chances are you would; after all, the mantra “early diagnosis saves lives” has been endlessly drilled into our heads through doctors, friends, advertisements, marathons and charities. But is that always true for
every disease out there? This is an excellent, in-depth article from Harriet Hall at Science Based Medicine that explores this topic.

She covers the basics about what makes a good screening test, and also takes a closer look at mammograms for breast cancer and PSA testing for prostate cancer. The article concludes with a list of extremely questionable tests that are available out there that could turn even the mildest hypochondriac into a nervous wreck. Did you know that you could analyze the genome of the bacteria that live inside your gut? What the heck are you supposed to do with that information?!

“Screening tests can be very valuable but they can sometimes do more harm than good. They should be chosen judiciously, and the USPSTF offers sound recommendations based on the latest available evidence. More information is not always a good thing; sometimes it’s better not to know”

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