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Speclipse on Overdiagnosis: Can Overdiagnosis of Cancer Lead to Something Bad?

The good and bad news: Overdiagnosis of skin cancer is a common first-world problem. The good news, Spectra-Scope can help stop it.

Screening and diagnosis of cancer have advanced well over the past decade. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine had several doctors and researchers looking into the explosion of melanoma diagnosis claim that we are now six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma compared to how it was 40 years ago. Is this overdiagnosis? Maybe, or maybe not.

So, what exactly is overdiagnosis, and how much of a problem does it pose?

Overdiagnosis is defined as the state by which doctors find and test more, including those that would not have caused harm, with unnecessary harsh procedures that can negatively impact a person's life, health, and lifestyle.

In terms of diagnosis relating to benign skin lesions and melanoma, if incidental findings from screening tests resulted in a diagnosis for melanoma, a doctor may call for subsequent harsher testing procedures like biopsy. If it turns out wrong and a biopsy was unnecessary, it will affect the patient's mental, financial, and physical well-being and the healthcare system.

It also isn't always true that these cancer screenings and diagnoses were made with honest intentions. Nor do they mean that we are now catching the problem earlier and preventing worsened diseases. It seems to be quite the opposite. According to studies from Lown Institute, this increased melanoma diagnosis appears to stem more from doctors' fear of prosecution and malpractice suits (like an attempt to "play it safe") and pursuit for revenue, as opposed to moral intention to heal or help patients. In a sense, it has become not a process of servicing for health but merely for testing.

As far as overdiagnosis problems go, it usually results in an explosion of cancer diagnoses like melanoma. A research paper published by the Medical Journal of Australia said that overdiagnosis accounted for about 18% or 11,000 cancer diagnoses in women and about 24% or 18,000 diagnoses in men in Australia in 2012. Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of the Center for Surgery and Public Health at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, along with a team of colleagues, said that between 1975 and 2017, the diagnoses increased by 500%, particularly for the incidence of melanoma.

Now what? What can we do about it?

In addressing the problem of overdiagnosis, it is essential to note how it differs from misdiagnosis. When a person receives a harsher treatment than what is necessary, it is misdiagnosis and not overdiagnosis.

That said, screening procedures do not need drastic changes. These programs are generally intended to save, after all. However, as much as early diagnosis can save lives, especially for cases of skin cancer like melanoma, it calls for proper and more accurate diagnosis. Considering factors that may cause such errors is important.

It is in this regard that Speclipse's Spectra-Scope comes in. With its non-invasive and real-time diagnosis capability to detect biochemical information, dermatologists and first-line practitioners can offer a diagnosis that reigns over visual skin tests. Since it is highly accurate, there is no need for blindly ordering harsher testing procedures, which is a definite step towards solving overdiagnosis problems related to skin cancer.

Believe it or not, it happens. Benign lesions and melanoma are particularly tricky since melanoma poses serious risks, but there are no definitive diagnostic criteria to differentiate the two. With Spectra-Scope, the diagnosis can be more accurate, and patients can avoid going through unnecessary pathological tests. Likewise, no doctor will end up in a situation when they have to change their diagnosis from benign to melanoma without justification.




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