Friday, February 04, 2011

Some tests are more needed than others

Man, all this prevention, so-called. This testing. Scouring your body to find something wrong, something that COULD go wrong.

This is why I stay away from doctors if I can.

Amazingly, my last round of tests was normal. I am fat. My tests are normal. Oh, come on, surely there must be a lot of stuff wrong with you—more tests.

Now, Consumer Reports has rated tests—just like they would a fridge.

Take cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure and cholesterol tests are justified, they said. Electrocardiograms or c-reactive protein—not so much, at least for otherwise healthy people.

A test that is unnecessary can lead to a cascade of other tests (as I was saying, ahem).

The US Preventive Services Task Force rates these things. They are cooling on yearly mammograms and PSA tests.

Clogged peripheral arteries can also lead to a cascade of procedures. Say your EKG shows “something” is wrong (my last one said I had had a heart attack—news to me). Anyway, that “abnormality” could lead to a CT scan and a ton of radiation. If that is odd at all—how about an angiogram, wires snaking through your body to your heart?

OK, say the angiogram shows a 50% blocked artery. That is not considered significant, but you might want treatment, it might sound scary.

I have atrial fibrillation—and all the therapies almost killed me. Unintended consequences.

So I am not saying don’t get a recommended test—but I am saying ask about it. Make the doctor explain why it’s justified.

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