We're always being told that we should have regular screening tests as they're an effective way to catch cancer and other diseases, especially in their early stages - but, astonishingly, there's a good chance the doctor won't do anything with the results if they do indicate a problem.
Up to one in four abnormal test results are never discussed with the patient, and are ignored by doctors, a new study has discovered. "Failure to report abnormal tests results can lead to serious, even lethal consequences for the patient," says Dr Lawrence Casalino, from Weill Cornell Medical College, who carried out the research.
Dr Casalino and his team analysed 5,434 patient records from 23 practices across the US, and discovered that a large percentage of abnormal screening results were never acted on. The average was one in 14 abnormal results, but the rate rose to one in four at some practices.
(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169: 1123-9).