Saturday, January 28, 2017

The most important book I've read all year

Yes, I know it is only January! But still ... this book may have changed my life. It has certainly provided much food for thought.

Overdiagnosed, by H. Gilbert Welch, Lisa M. Schwartz and Steven Woloshin, is a book about medical screening. The sort that happens when a healthy person, without symptoms, is tested for tiny abnormalities. The authors argue that technological advances are allowing doctors to find more and more 'abnormalities' and that the treatments used to supposedly cure them are often more injurious than the condition ever would have been.

The book was a wake-up call for me. Over the past twelve or so years my GP has assiduously screened me for all manner of conditions, due to a family history of heart disease. There have been a number of false positives – scares around hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer – and these have led to unnecessary anxiety, expense, pain and wasted time. Admittedly, I'm quite risk-averse and regret-averse, so submitting to the regular barrage of tests felt like the right thing to do. I'm not so sure anymore. 

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