Rethinking the logic of early diagnosis in cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

To reduce morbidity and mortality of cancer, more countries have implemented strategies to detect cancer, based on the logic of ‘the sooner the better’. Time is thereby an essential component in how cancer research, policies, and prevention are practiced today. Where the logic of early diagnosis benefits some, the logic also produces harms. In this article, we use a cross-disciplinary case-study design to discuss how different notions of time and linearity are essential in today’s research ontology of cancer, describe the individual and societal consequences of such ontology, and invite a rethinking of time in cancer. Drawing on theoretical concepts of time together with cancer epidemiological, historical and ethnographical data, we analyse how the logic of early diagnosis has been established as a stable concept. Although evidence supporting the logic points in different directions, the message ‘the sooner the better’ is currently not being challenged by research, policy or society. This at least partly, can be explained by a linear perception of time and societal traces of neoliberalism and acceleration in our society together with cancer still being a somewhat enigmatic disease that requires acute action. To support a sustainable healthcare sector, we argue there is a need to nuance the logic of early diagnosis. Continuing the linear perception of symptoms and cancer, risks doing more harm than good by making more people patients unnecessarily and by spending health resources on those with the least need.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth: An interdisciplinary journal for the social study of Health, Illness and Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024

ID: 384349322