Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews From the Frontline

Does early diagnosis really save lives?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 19 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4252
  1. Des Spence, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. destwo{at}

Language is important. For many years the popular press clamoured for more screening, because detecting a disease early is always better. We couldn’t get enough of health checks. But now we are falling out of love with screening, with reports and evidence of unnecessary interventions, overdiagnosis, and medical harm. Many of us puff out our chests in self satisfied vindication, but the intuitive and near religious belief that early diagnosis is a good thing has not gone away: government and charities now lobby to promote …

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