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Study Finds OB/GYNs Tend To Over-Diagnose

Two Ob/GYN doctors review test results.
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 Russell Harris from UNC's Center for Health Services Research says that practice is outdated and may do more harm than good.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.

Fed up with the frigid winters of her native state, Catherine was lured to North Carolina in 2006. She grew up in Wisconsin where she spent much of her time making music and telling stories. Prior to joining WUNC, Catherine hosted All Things Considered and classical music at Wisconsin Public Radio. She got her start hosting late-nights and producing current events talk shows for the station's Ideas Network. She later became a fill-in talk show host and recorded books for WPR's popular daily program, Chapter A Day.
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