To Treat or Not to Treat: The Overdiagnosis Debate

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Rapid advances in detection technology, coupled with an increased awareness about screening, have ignited a debate on overdiagnosis and overtreatment of precancerous lesions. Should physicians use their discretion and implement a "wait-and-watch" approach?

Early detection has long been seen as a powerful weapon in the battle against cancer. But some experts now see it as double-edged sword.

While it's clear that early-stage cancers are more treatable than late-stage ones, some leading cancer experts say that zealous screening and advanced diagnostic tools are finding ever-smaller abnormalities in prostate, breast, thyroid and other tissues. Many are being labeled cancer or precancer and treated aggressively, even though they may never have caused harm.


As a result, these experts say, many people may be undergoing surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments unnecessarily, sometimes with lifelong side effects.

Meanwhile, an estimated 586,000 Americans will die of cancer this year—many from very aggressive, fast-moving cancers that develop between screenings and spread too quickly to stop.

Read the commentary:

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Other Resources: ASCO 2014 session:

Source: Evidence-Based Oncology ASCO 2014 special issue