Earlier detection of ‘disease’ is not necessarily better.
People often assume that early detection of disease and treating people who are at risk of disease lead to better outcomes. However, screening (testing) people to detect disease or treating people at risk of disease is only helpful if two conditions are met. First, there must be an effective treatment. Second, people who are treated before the disease becomes apparent must do better than people who are treated after the disease becomes apparent.
Screening and treating people at risk of a disease can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Screening tests can be inaccurate (e.g. wrongly indicating that people have a disease when they do not, or vice versa). Screening or treating a risk factor as if it is a ‘disease’ can also cause harm by labelling healthy people as being sick. Screening can also be harmful because of side effects of the tests (for example, when they require sticking something into people) and because of side effects of the treatments that follow testing.
BEWARE of claims that early detection of ‘disease’ and treatment is better than treating people after the disease becomes apparent.
REMEMBER: Early is not necessarily better.