Screen test

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  • Format Texts
  • Language/s English
  • Target Audience Self-directed learning
  • EBM Stage 0 - Why EBM?
  • Duration <5 mins
  • Difficulty Intermediate

Key Concepts addressed


Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday January 12 2008

So we’re all going to get screened for our health problems, by some geezers who’ve bought a CT scanner and put an advert in the paper maybe, or perhaps off Gordon Brown: because screening saves lives, and it’s always good to do something rather than nothing. I think you’ll find – and I fancy having this on a t-shirt – that it’s a tiny bit more complicated than that.

Screening is a fascinating area, mainly because of the maths of rare events, but also because of the ethics. Screening isn’t harmless, because the tests aren’t perfect. You might get a false alarm, causing stress and anxiety (“the worst time in my life” said women in one survey on breast screening), or have to endure more invasive medical investigations, like maybe biopsies. Or you might get false reassurance from a false negative result, which can delay diagnosis of a genuine problem.

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