Art of Medicine
Feb 2020

Risks, Benefits, and Conundrums of Cancer Screening

Nick Love, PhD
AMA J Ethics. 2020;22(2):E164-165. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2020.164.


This graphic narrative is a fictional case report illustrated using paint pens and histological micrographs collaged with Adobe Illustrator. The story of Mr P and his physician recapitulates an ethical dilemma presented by cancer screening: screening can save lives, but it also generates diagnostic morbidity and incurs costs.

Figure. Corpora Amylacea



Oil and acrylic paint pencils on paper; micrographs of histologically stained tissue captured using SPOT software and collaged with Adobe Illustrator.



This graphic narrative is drawn from the artist’s experience working in a department of pathology. Drawing on the aesthetic beauty of histologically stained tissue, the graphic relates a story of uncertainty in medicine, represents risk of diagnostic morbidity, and visually considers psychological burdens of disease. The illustrations and micrograph collages aim to provoke a viewer’s consideration of risks, benefits, and costs of cancer screening and workup techniques while the precision of the digital images contrasts with the imprecision of analog histological staining techniques.

Editor's Note

This is the winning artwork of the 2019 John Conley Art of Medicine Contest.


AMA J Ethics. 2020;22(2):E164-165.



Conflict of Interest Disclosure

The author(s) had no conflicts of interest to disclose.

The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.