A number of groups including the Royal Australian College of GPs, the Royal Australian College of physicians and the Cancer Council of Australia have endorsed a statement calling for a national action plan to be introduced in the country, to prevent overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
According to the collective "there is an urgent need to better inform consumers, clinicians, decision-makers and the public about the evidence for, and the consequences of, overdiagnosis and related overtreatment, as part of a broader approach to inform people about the potential harms, as well as the benefits of medical tests and treatments."
A number of conditions have been identified as being overdiagnosed, with the leading five said to be the following.
Recently rates of Thyroid Cancer tripled in Australia and The USA, with recent findings showing that as many as 10,000 people ‘down under’ may have been overdiagnosed in the past 20 years.
Many tumours found in those with the condition are benign, yet are still removed using risky procedures and drugs which are overprescribed.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Studies are ongoing worldwide into the potential overdiagnosis of ADHD, with rates soaring and many of those diagnosed with the condition only showing minor symptoms. Research should help to provide a more decisive test however, until then, medics are being urged to be cautious when diagnosing the condition.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Changes in the medical definition of Polycystic ovary syndrome has lead to a greater range of individuals being diagnosed with the condition than otherwise would have.
According to researchers the number of people diagnosed as having the condition jumps from 5% when using the 1990 definition, to over 20% when the 2003 definition is used. This can lead to many people being diagnosed unnecessarily, potentially leading to greater levels of anxiety amongst those with little to worry about.
As with Thyroid Cancer many incidents of Breast Cancer are being overdiagnosed due to benign tumours having to be removed. Given the stress this can cause patients, and the potential risks of removing the tumour it’s advised to only remove potentially Cancerous lumps.
Medics globally have disagreed about the increasing push for men to have their prostates checked for Cancer. Some argue that it’s better to check as many individuals as you can for the condition, whilst others put forward the case that the majority of people with the condition die with it, not because of it.
Rough estimates suggest that between 20% and 50% of cases may be overdiagnosed worldwide, meaning that the Cancer would not have caused an issue if it was left undetected.
Are these groups right to be concerned about overdiagnosis? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below, or on social media.