In April, a panel featuring members of nine medical organizations announced that Americans are having far too many medical tests – and it's hurting our health. Not only are many procedures "unnecessary," the panel stated, some are actually harmful and can lead to mistaken diagnoses or endless rounds of follow-up testing when nothing is wrong. "Overtesting and overtreating is harming people, and that's unethical," says one of the panel's members, Dr. Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The panel formed as the result of a widely publicized paper written by medical ethicist Dr. Howard Browdy, which asked representatives from the country's top specialty-medical societies – national health organizations like the American Society of Clinical Oncology and American College of Cardiology – to choose five tests each that they believed were the most abused or overused in their specific field of care. In the end, the panel recommended that doctors think twice before ordering many specific tests and suggested that patients question whether procedures are necessary before undergoing them. In other words, it's your body and future, and you have every right to ask. "Is it really that different from when the guy at the garage tells you your car needs X, Y, and Z?" asks Dr. Steven Woloshin, professor of medicine at Dartmouth College. "In that instance, lots of people feel fine saying, 'Do I really need it?'" Read on for a list of six medical tests that you probably don't need. Launch Gallery >>
EKGs and Stress Tests
If you have healthy cholesterol and blood pressure, and no family history of heart disease, then you can skip routine EKGs and stress tests, which often discover harmless irregularities. "There is a significant risk of false positives" when heart screens are done on healthy people, says panel member Dr. Glen Stream. For example, one of his patients had an EKG to see if his heart was fit enough for back surgery. The EKG found what looked like a heart problem, and his surgery was delayed while he underwent more tests, culminating in a risky cardiac catheterization. But his heart was fine – and in the time it took to have additional tests, his back pain went away, obviating surgery.
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