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Aust Fam Physician. 2013 Dec;42(12):856-9.

Is the problem that everything is a diagnosis?

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BMBS, PhD, FRACGP, is Professor, Centre for Research in Evidence Based Practice, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland.



Overdiagnosis is the diagnosis of 'illnesses' that would never have caused patients harm but potentially exposes them to treat-ments where the risks outweigh the benefits. The problem of overdiagnosis is affecting an increasing proportion of the population.


Overdiagnosis is occurring in several different ways: by changes in the definition or threshold of disease, labelling of risk factors as diseases, early detection from both deliberate screening programs and incidental detection ('incidentalomas'), and the medicalisation of life, particularly in psychiatry.


General practitioners often carry the burden of care for patients who have been overdiagnosed. It is important that general practi-tioners are aware of the potential harm of overdiagnosis, particularly through early detection and aggressive management of early disease.

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