1-9 Earlier is not necessarily better

People often assume that early detection of disease leads to better outcomes. However, screening people to detect 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 tests can be inaccurate (e.g. misclassifying people who do not have disease as having disease). Screening can also cause harm by labelling people as being sick when they are not and because of side effects of the tests and treatments.

Do not assume that early detection of disease is worthwhile if it has not been assessed in systematic reviews of fair comparisons between people who were screened and people who were not screened.

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