5 questions that protect you from unnecessary medical tests

Raise your hand if you’ve had a medical scan in the past year?

My hand’s up, and I’m sure most of yours are too. We’re lucky to have technology like CTs, MRIs, and X-rays. They let us see inside our bodies to figure out what’s wrong… and potentially save our lives.

But you know the saying “too much of a good thing”? That applies to medical scans too…

When medical scans are overused, they harm more than they help. They trigger unnecessary anxiety, lead to overdiagnosis, result in treatment of harmless or inconsequential findings and even expose you to radiation that can increase your risk of cancer.

Now, the medical community firmly believes that scans are overused. In fact, in the past couple of decades, physician groups have led a campaign to encourage medical professionals to cut back on imaging.

But the campaign’s not going so well. A new study shows that medical imaging rates are still on the rise.

Doctors still order too many CTs, MRIs and ultrasounds

A new study from researchers at the University of California Davis, University of California San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente revealed something alarming about medical imaging. Even though imaging rates slowed down in the early 2000s, they’re picking up again.

The study included data from more than 135 million imaging exams taken between 2000 and 2016. And here’s what that data revealed…

CT, MRI, and ultrasound tests are on the rise.  Between 2012 and 2016, the frequency of these tests rose one to five percent for most age groups in the U.S. and Ontario, Canada.

Now, you may be wondering something… why in the world would doctors order medical imaging unnecessarily? Well, put yourself in your doctor’s shoes for a second…

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Someone is seeking your help with a scary symptom, sudden injury or ongoing ailment. Their health is in your hands and you don’t want to miss something. So, you take a “better safe than sorry” approach and order an imaging test.

A lot of patients expect doctors to order tests too. If they don’t, these patients question whether doctors are doing their job.

Doctors may just need guidance on how to talk with their patients about whether an imaging test is necessary, side-effect free and proven to help with their health issue. That’s why the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation created the “Choosing Wisely” campaign — to help doctors have these conversations and make better decisions.

Start choosing your imaging exams wisely

So, how do you know whether the scan your doctor orders is necessary? Well, before you get any test, treatment or procedure, you should always ask your doctor five questions:

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
  5. How much does it cost?

These questions will start a productive conversation between you and your doctor that helps you make the best decisions about your health. Because let’s be real… how often do you blindly agree to a medical test or procedure without having a real conversation about it with your doctor? I’m guilty of that.

If you’re looking for helpful tips on getting just the right amount of medical care (not too much or too little), check out the Choosing Wisely website. It’s filled with resources for doctors and patients that help us all make better, safer healthcare decisions.

Editor’s note: Discover how to live a cancer prevention lifestyle — using foods, vitamins, minerals and herbs — as well as little-known therapies allowed in other countries but denied to you by American mainstream medicine. Click here to discover Surviving Cancer! A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Causes, Treatments and Big Business Behind Medicine’s Most Frightening Diagnosis!

Sources:

  1. Medical imaging rates continue to rise despite push to reduce their use — MedicalXpress
  2. Trends in Use of Medical Imaging in US Health Care Systems and in Ontario, Canada, 2000-2016 — JAMA
  3. 5 QUESTIONS to Ask Your Doctor Before You Get Any Test, Treatment, or Procedure — Choosing Wisely

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.