People overestimate benefits of cancer, other prevention aids: study

Nov 16 2012, 18:47 IST
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SummaryPatients asked to estimate how many lives would be saved through cancer screening or how many hip fractures can be prevented with bone-building medication mostly overestimate the benefits of these preventive measures, according to a New Zealand study.

lives would be saved if 5,000 people took blood pressure medication, when the correct range should have been 50 to 100.

Hudson said that one of the problems that can arise when people overvalue a test is if recommendations for testing are scaled back because of insufficient benefits, people get upset.

In 2009, for instance, when guidelines were changed on regular mammograms from beginning at age 40 to beginning at age 50, a survey of women at the time found that most of them considered the new guidelines to be unsafe, at least in part because they feared that insurers would no longer cover screening for women in their 40s who wanted it.

The other thing that happens when you have an established screening program for which people have heightened expectations, it becomes very politically difficult to make any changes insofar as recommending reduced access, even when it is pretty convincing that the outcomes are better, Hudson said.

I have a feeling this would all be easier if we could present (patients) with this information, trust them with their decisions and support them in doing so, he added.

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