The High Stakes of Medicine

Medical care can be a gamble--and patients often don't understand the odds. University of California researchers aim to change that, with an interactive Web-based tool that they are calling the roulette wheel. This color-coded visual model uses a computer algorithm to help patients and their doctors assess the possible outcomes of different treatments. Take the prostate-specific-antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer, for example. The wheel for PSA screening shows a typical patient the potential harm (incontinence, impotence, death) or benefit (no symptoms) that could result from treatment following a PSA test in which high levels of the antigen are found. Another...

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