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No body is perfect

Improved diagnosis of cancer is prompting interventions that may do more harm than good

By Simon Crompton   May 2010

My sister phones me after her latest breast cancer consultation. In four months she has had three lumpectomies on one breast, and more tissue removed from both in a reduction procedure. This time, surely, the lab analysis will show whether she is clear of the disease or will need a mastectomy. “Well,” she sighs, “It’s still not that simple.”

Her experience brought home to me an increasingly troubling aspect of western medicine: that our ability to diagnose diseases at earlier stages can outstrip our knowledge of what best to do about them.

When my sister first found an inflammation in…

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