A perspective piece in the Archives of Internal Medicine by Dr. Vinay Prasad of the Medical Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute tells a sad tale of what is headlined, “An Unmeasured Harm of Screening.”
It’s a story of a 65-year old man who was screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm with ultrasound followed by CT scan.
The overly-condensed story is this:
The author concludes:
“This study highlights a number of complicated issues in health care. First, Mr R was appropriately consented for surgery; however, in hindsight he wishes different information were presented to him. The informed consent process is often long and complicated, but it remains unclear if it best communicates what some patients want to know. Second, translating data from randomized clinical trials (RCTs) to individual patients, who often differ from those participants in the RCTs, remains an uncertain affair. Third, data are often extrapolated from older studies. The data from the cited screening example were collected between 1997 and 1999, prior to the development of endovascular repair. Finally, how quickly should physicians respond to new data, and are data from only 1 or 2 studies sufficient to change practice?”
Such examples should not be confined to the pages of medical journals. Consumers need to read about these as well.
Our 6.5 year experience in reviewing health care news stories on HealthNewsReview.org shows a clear and overwhelming pattern of messages that emphasize/exaggerate the potential benefits of medical interventions and minimize or totally ignore potential harms.