Terms such as delayed treatment and misdiagnosis are often associated with medical malpractice lawsuit. However, many Montana residents likely are not familiar with term overdiagosis, which has recently garnered attention in the medical community. In fact, medical experts from around the globe are about to reconvene at a conference for the third consecutive year to yet again deliberate over the growing problem of overdiagnosis that affects many types of diseases.

Overdiagnosis, which is a term that hasn’t yet made it into the mainstream public discourse, is typically agreed upon by the experts to refer to the diagnosis of a specific disease or condition that is actually not present and may not pose a threat of harm.

According to one of the members of the conference’s steering committee, this year’s conference will focus primarily on the best way to educate medical doctors and the public about the potential for harm from overdiagnosis, as well as the identification of the main underlying cause of overdiagnosis and the best methods to help mitigate the problem.

Cancer is one of the diseases that can be negatively affected by overdiagnosis, that evidence gleaned from numerous studies has suggested can be triggered by widespread screening, which can then result in overtreatment.

One of the key issues that make mitigating overdiagnosis such a difficult problem to tackle is that, currently, overdiagnosis can only be detected and tracked at the population level. The goal is to be able to identify it accurately at the individual level, so that any potential harm that over-diagnosing may pose can be effectively mitigated and dealt with before it poses any real harm.

One potential avenue that researchers are pursuing is to develop accurate molecular fingerprints that would grant doctors the ability to be able to accurately distinguish lesions that are mostly likely to metastasize into lethal cancer cells from those that are unlikely to pose any real harm.

Source: National Cancer Institute, “Overdiagnosis of Cancer: Bringing an Important Problem into Focus,” Aug., 28, 2015