When a panel of nine medical organizations concluded this spring that Americans are being overtested and overtreated with alarming frequency, it was a wake-up call to many patients and doctors. Medical professionals, advocacy groups, and 16 medical societies have since joined the initiative, known as Choosing Wisely, to curtail overtreatment, which costs the U.S. $700 billion annually and harms patient health. Needless prescription drugs cause thousands of deaths each year, according to statistics, while tests like CT scans expose patients to hazardous radiation, often without solving medical issues – and, in some cases, creating new ones. In what's known as a "therapeutic cascade," one test can lead to more tests, procedures, even surgery, says Dr. Christine Cassel, head of Choosing Wisely. "If you have a little speck on an X-ray or a slightly high blood test, a physician feels obligated to check it out," even though you don't have symptoms. Testing's domino effect can lead to invasive procedures for no reason, says Cassel. In April, the panel released a list of 45 overprescribed tests and drugs; it will name 80 more this winter. "What this is about is choice, not that you should never have these things," Cassel says. "We're in an era when patients need to ask hard questions of doctors, and doctors need to answer them. Most physicians will welcome that conversation, since many order tests because patients expect them." Here, 10 treatments to discuss with your doctor before taking action:
MRIs or CT scans for low back pain
Low back pain is the fifth most common reason for all doctor visits. Most physicians will order a scan even though studies show that these tests in the first six weeks of pain don't improve treatment options and may find problems that aren't causing pain, leading to poor treatment and even surgery.
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