Your doctor is supposed to order a medical test only when it’s necessary to diagnose you, or measure progress on something you’re being treated for. But all too often doctors get into the habit of routinely, and unnecessarily, ordering them. And when they do they not only are costing you cash and time, they may also be putting you at serious risk.
The next time your doctor says he’s going to send you for a medical test make sure you really need it and that it’s not one you should say no to!
1. CT scan:
There are times when a CT scan is called for. In certain circumstances they can be useful in making a diagnosis. But, unfortunately, CT scans have become a common crutch for many doctors. A test they often toss in “just in case.”
And that’s a problem, because CT scans are far from benign. Because with every CT scan you’re being exposed to dangerous cancer-linked radiation.
The reality is the results of a regular CT scan rarely change a doctor’s recommended treatment. So, in other words, you get all the hazardous radiation exposure with very few (or no) benefits in return.
When your doctor suggests a CT scan, ask if it is really necessary or if an MRI, X-ray or ultrasound will work instead. None of these tests will expose you to the same level of radiation as a CT scan.
2. Nuclear imaging stress test:
A nuclear imaging stress test measures blood flow to your heart while it’s at rest and then while it’s working hard. Images are taken to reveal areas of low blood flow or damaged heart tissue. And like CT scans there are times when this test may be needed.
But also like CT scans nuclear imaging stress tests are often over ordered. It’s tempting to ask for one to make sure your heart is healthy – especially if you’ve had some kind of a scare. Don’t.
See, everything you just learned about CT scans above, goes for nuclear imaging stress tests, too. Only the radiation exposure is significantly higher. In fact the exposure is within 10 points of the amount of radiation some survivors of Hiroshima experienced.
If you’re doc wants you to have a nuclear imaging test just be sure it’s necessary before your give your thumbs up.
3. Ovarian cancer prescreening:
Here’s the truth about ovarian cancer prescreening. There’s actually zero evidence that they help catch these cancers any earlier. But what they do in some cases instead is lead to false positives or inconclusive results.
False positives and inconclusive test results don’t just cause emotional distress alone. They also often lead to uncomfortable and invasive follow up tests or surgeries that come with risks of their own. Risks that simply outweigh any potential benefits.
If you don’t have any symptoms, and you don’t have a family history of ovarian cancer, keep your regular OBGYN appointment, but don’t worry about prescreenings.
4. Yearly pap smears:
Generations of women have obediently gotten their pap smears year after year. But new research finds yearly testing is far too often.
The fact is it takes as much as 10 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop. Not much can change in a single year.
New guidelines call for a pap smear every three years for women under the age of 65, and once you’re past that age you can stop getting them altogether.
Save yourself the yearly aggravation and expense. A pap smear just isn’t necessary that often.
Some medical tests are essential and the potential benefits are worth any risks. Just make sure your test falls into that category. Before you say yes to any test, ask plenty of questions and make sure it’s something you truly need.
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