Lecture to Discuss Medical Overdiagnosis Slated for Jan. 23 at UM

January 16, 2014

MISSOULA – WWAMI Medical Education Program Missoula and the University of Montana’s Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana will host Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, general internist and professor of medicine at Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, on Thursday, Jan. 23, at UM.

Welch will deliver his lecture, “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health” at 7 p.m. in James E. Todd Building Room 210. The event is free and open to the public.    

During the past several decades, there has been a growing enthusiasm for early diagnosis, engaging many physicians in a systematic search for abnormalities in people who are well. In this talk Welch exposes the often-ignored harm of overdiagnosis. 

According to Welch, diagnoses of many conditions, including high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and even cancer, have skyrocketed during the past few decades, yet many of the individuals given these diagnoses are not destined to develop symptoms, or die, from their condition. 

“Overdiagnosed patients cannot benefit from treatment since there is nothing to fix,” Welch said. “But they can be harmed.”

For the past two decades, Welch’s research has focused on the problems created by medicine’s efforts to detect disease early: Physicians test too often, treat too aggressively and tell too many people that they are sick. Much of his work has focused on overdiagnosis in cancer screening, particularly with screening for melanoma, thyroid, lung, breast and prostate cancer.

Welch wrote his first book, “Should I be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why” while he was a visiting scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It was listed by Malcolm Gladwell in The Week as one of six best books. In 2011 he published his second book, “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.”

For more information about the lecture, call Megan Twohig, WWAMI Missoula program coordinator, at 406-243-4576 or email megan.twohig@providence.org.

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Contact: Megan Twohig, program coordinator, WWAMI Missoula, 406-243-4576, megan.twohig@providence.org.