The Best Health Care In The World?
Opponents of health care reform often argue that despite its high costs, our system provides the highest quality of care in the world and that any changes would therefore be counterproductive. While reviewing a new study for Reuters, Sharon Begley explains why the favorite statistic of reform opponents, cancer survival, is a flawed metric for judging the quality of our health care system:
If a tumor is diagnosed very early in its existence - if it has a long “lead time” - the patient may survive, say, two years if the tumor is very aggressive. If an identical tumor is found in that patient’s identical twin later, the twin will survive, say, six months. But the twins die at the same age. The first survived longer with cancer due to lead-time bias, but did not have a longer lifetime.
Even more problematic, said Berry, is a problem cancer experts have only recently recognized: overdiagnosis. Because cancer screening is much more widespread in the United States than in Europe, especially for breast and prostate cancer, “we find many more cancers than are found in Europe,” he said. “These are cancers that tend to be slowly growing and many would never kill anyone.”
Screening therefore turns thousands of healthy people into cancer patients, even though their tumor would never threaten their health or life. Counting these cases, of which there are more in the United States than Europe, artificially inflates survival time, experts said.
Read the full article here.
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