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The true harms of a false positive test

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The London Daily Mail reports on a man diagnosed with cancer who was told he had less than a year to live.

“The 62-year-old council worker quit his job, sold his car, stopped paying his mortgage and dug into his life savings so he could treat himself and relatives to expensive restaurant meals.

He even sold all his clothes but for the black suit in which he expected to be buried.

A year later, however, with no sign of the Grim Reaper coming to call, he went for tests – which gave him a clean bill of health. He had never had cancer at all.”

I’ve written before on this blog about journalists who seem to have a pro-screening test bias, never mentioning the harms that can occur from some tests. While this story was about a diagnostic test, not a screening test, it nonetheless should serve as a reminder that there are harms of false positives – which occur often in mass screening campaigns which some journalists endorse in the absence of the best evidence.

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May 12, 2007 at 11:18 am

thats crazy, to imagine that a guys life is totally down the drain!