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False positives and ovarian cancer screenings

A problem with a misdiagnosis is that it can ultimately lead to a number of unnecessary medical procedures. It has recently been found that screenings for ovarian cancer often lead to what are called false-positives - leading doctors to believe a patient has ovarian cancer when they do not.

An unnecessary surgical procedure can be almost as devastating for a patient as a failure to have a disease treated when such a disease was still manageable. In either case, a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis may ultimately cause harm for a patient that could altogether have been avoided.

Sadly, most cases of ovarian cancer are already in the advanced stages by the time such a disease becomes manifest. Too many women from Pennsylvania and the United States are dying from the disease, and this may be why doctors perform so many ovarian cancer screenings.

However, the risks of screening for ovarian cancer have long been discussed because rates of false-positives being so extremely high. Even the American Cancer Society has discouraged too many screenings for ovarian cancer because the risks of overtreatment outweigh the risks of adequately identifying a problem.

Doctors have a duty of knowing the risks versus the benefits of performing certain screenings and procedures. Obviously, there are risks every time a patient requires surgery, and that's why unnecessary procedures can cause so much harm and be subject for medical malpractice claims brought by clients and lawyers.

Doctors need to do more than rely upon certain tests to determine whether a disease is present. Rather than rush to judgment, doctors need to listen to their patients and then do their best to assess what the condition of such a patient truly is.

Source: The New York Times, "Ovarian Cancer Screenings Are Not Effective, Panel Says," by Denise Gray, September 10, 2012

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