Deciding who is sick is a fundamental part of medical practice. But it's tricky. That's because many phenomena exist on a spectrum and it is often unclear where to draw the line between normal and abnormal.
What should be the cutoff between normal and high blood pressure? Normal and high cholesterol? Feeling sad and being depressed? Another challenge is the fact that many tests uncover silent abnormalities – like bulging disks in people without back pain, or sinusitis in people who feel well. Perhaps the most difficult problem is the overdiagnosis of cancer through screening tests: that is the identification of cancers never destined to progress and which would never have caused harm if left undiscovered.
Our Center is deeply interested in helping people understand and communicate the tradeoffs between too little diagnosis (missing problems that might benefit from earlier treatment) and overdiagnosis (harming people with problems that never needed to be found).
The conference will be held Sept. 15-17, 2014, hosted by the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Oxford University UK.
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