Study Finds OB/GYNs Tend To Over-Diagnose

Jul 10, 2013

Two Ob/GYN doctors review test results.
Credit Mercy Health

For decades, women have been told to get annual screenings for cervical cancer. In 2009, mounting scientific evidence prompted major groups like the American Cancer Society to recommend less frequent screenings; every 3 years instead of every year.

Despite the revised guidelines, about half of the OB/GYNs surveyed reported they continue to provide yearly exams. Dr. Russell Harris from UNC's Center for Health Services Research says that practice is outdated and may do more harm than good.

“So now we have a problem of over diagnosis,” Harris says. “We're treating people who don't need to be treated; we're worrying people who don't need to worry.”

Harris says those incorrectly diagnosed women have to come back for more and more tests that are not only costly but intrusive. They often lead to false positives and to treatment of benign conditions that would've been fine if left alone.

The study is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.