Setting Probabilities: Lost in the Translation

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To the Editors: Terms used to express physiologic and pathologic variability include probability expressions ranging between "never and always." Their meanings differ among physicians, leading to misunderstandings and management errors (1-3). We studied the meaning of 18 common Romanian expressions of probability and how their English equivalents were perceived by Romanian readers of English medical texts.

Forty physicians and 37 medical students (all with a good knowledge of English) took part in this study. They were asked to assign a numerical value to statements about the frequency of a new, hypothetical symptom in lung cancer (called "XYZ"). The probability expressions

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