Overdiagnosis

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Among the 61 recommendations is: ‘Don’t order chest x-rays in patients with uncomplicated acute bronchitis’. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Antibiotics for colds, x-rays for bronchitis, internal exams with pap tests – the latest list of tests to question

Harm doesn’t just come in the form of side-effects or further testing. The "cons" of any treatment also include the costs, which can be financial, emotional, and the costs of the individual’s time.
A snapshot of 2015: health reviews, Health Check series, thalidomide series, Medicare versus private health insurance. AAP; Shutterstock; Julian Smith/; Dave Hunt/AAP

2015, the year that was: Health + Medicine

This was the year of the health review – mental health care, Medicare, private health insurance, the pharmacy industry ... and the list goes on. But how much movement was there on policy?
An independent UK inquiry estimated that perhaps one in five of the cancers detected via breast cancer screening are overdiagnosed. Army Medicine/Flickr

Most people want to know risk of overdiagnosis, but aren’t told

Researchers have been talking about the dangers of overdiagnosis for some time. But now a national survey shows most people aren't told about the risk it poses to their health – and they want to know.
Most people overestimate the benefits and underestimate the harms of medical intervention. Barbara M./Flickr

Great expectations: our naive optimism about medical care

“It might do me some good and it won’t hurt to give it a go.” How often have you heard a phrase like this? Most people have naïve optimism about medical care. That’s the finding of a systematic review…
Whether the harms of statins outweigh their benefits depends on how you balance them up. AJ Cann/Flickr

Statins saga shows some of the perils of modern medicine

A panel convened by medical journal BMJ to investigate whether it was right to correct rather than retract two pieces featuring a mistake about side effects from statins has endorsed the journal’s decision…
Over the centuries, the name cancer has become synonymous with dreaded disease. Jason Lee

What’s in a name? Why we need to reconsider the word cancer

Earlier this year, leading American cancer scientists called for a set of changes to deal with the problem of over-diagnosis and over-treatment caused by cancer screening. Efforts to raise awareness and…
Mamming involves resting breasts on a flat surface and taking a photo. Ondra Anderle

#mamming meme opens young women up to screening harms

Social media can help raise awareness of health issues, engaging people in discussion and encouraging them to take action. But thoughtless adherence to such trends has the potential to cause harm. New…
Labelling a risk factor as a medical condition stimulates the therapeutic reflex to treat, which may have minimal or no benefit yet risk all the adverse effects. John Chamberlain

When does ‘abnormal’ actually impact your health?

Anyone, it seems, can create an epidemic. Witness a recent article in the Fairfax papers that provides “startling” news about the large number of Australians with high cholesterol who don’t even know they…
We wanted to know about the people who decide where to draw the line between “normal” and “abnormal”, between healthy and diseased. Shutterstock

How diseases get defined, and what that means for you

Have you ever wondered how diseases get defined? How “high” does your blood pressure have to be before it’s called “high blood pressure”? How “low” does bone density have to be before it’s “osteoporosis…
A newly-defined condition called ‘chronic kidney disease’ could turn many people unnecessarily into patients. Shutterstock

Making people patients: chronic kidney disease over-diagnosis

Kidneys are probably not a subject most of us think about too much – but right now they’re at the centre of a global medical controversy. In a paper published in the British Medical Journal today, we explain…

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