Firm Logo

How an Overdiagnosis Can Harm a Patient

May 12, 2017

You’ve likely heard of a misdiagnosis. This occurs when a doctor mistakenly diagnoses an illness. An underdiagnosis is different from a misdiagnosis. It happens when doctors diagnose a disease less often than it’s actually present.

An overdiagnosis, however, occurs when a doctor diagnoses a disease, but the disease will never present symptoms or result in death. To put it simply, an overdiagnosis is a diagnosis you don’t need. Even if the disease is diagnosed correctly, the diagnosis is irrelevant because treatment isn’t needed.

Overdiagnosis is often associated with cancer and cancer screening—particularly, prostate and breast cancer. Screening programs for these and other cancers have caused an increase in the overdiagnosis of insignificant diseases.

But overdiagnosis isn’t limited to cancer. Other diseases and conditions are susceptible too, including ADHD, mental illness, Asperger’s and hypertension.

Your Overdiagnosis: It Can Harm You

An overdiagnosis has no benefit. If a disease won’t make you sick, detection and treatment won’t make you better. However, in the event of an overdiagnosis, detection and treatment can seriously harm you. Here’s how:

  • Physical injuries: An overdiagnosis can cause you to suffer needless medical treatments, such as surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. These all have side effects and health risks.
  • Psychological injuries: Needless procedures and tests can increase your anxiety, and an unnecessary “disease” label can leave you feeling vulnerable and depressed.
  • Economic injuries: Tests and treatments can cost you thousands of dollars. For example, in a study from the journal Health Affairs, researchers determined that false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnoses cost Americans $4 billion annually.


Have you suffered an injury because of a doctor’s overdiagnosis? If so, call us at 412-471-4300, or email us. Berger Lagnese & Paul, LLC has an experienced team of lawyers and doctors that specializes in medical malpractice. We help residents in Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Beaver, Erie, Uniontown, Washington and throughout Western Pennsylvania.

We Have Successfully Handled Cases Like Yours