March 2, 2023

Understanding What Tests And Treatments You May Not Need

Lake Norman
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Typically, more is better when it comes to your overall health. Get more exercise. Eat more fruits and veggies. Get more sleep. Preventive healthcare is extremely important; everyone should prioritize their health. However, more is not always best regarding tests and treatments at a health center

Sometimes, there’s a misconception that you’re bound to be healthier if you get more tests done or take more medication. However, this isn’t the case—many unneeded medical tests and procedures exist. 

The best thing to do is talk to your family physician to ensure you get the right care. This will reduce tests and increase open communication with your doctor.

Below are several topics to speak to your physician about.

Overuse of Cardiac Imaging

Five billion global imaging tests are performed yearly, with about half being cardiovascular exams.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Thus, if you suffer from heart disease or have a family history, taking care of yourself and receiving help at a certified family physician health center is crucial.

Furthermore, the use of heart imaging can be helpful for doctors planning your treatment. However, these tests may not be helpful if you do not have a current condition or are not showing symptoms or a decline in health. In addition, it could be more harmful in the long run.

Normally, radiology is offered as an “addon” in cardiac care. This has increasingly become more common since the 1990s. However, concerns over safety and cost have only recently emerged. In addition, many studies have shown that excessive cardiac radiation exposure can lead to radiation-related cancers. 

Therefore, if cardiovascular concerns exist, physicians in a health care center should focus their tests and examinations beyond radiology. Instead, doctors use ultrasound, a treadmill test, and a thorough physical exam to measure cardiac issues. 

Overuse of Other Imaging

Why is imaging so overused? Because they are concerned about malpractice, many physicians take providing preventive healthcare too far and order too many tests to avoid being sued.

Not only are these specialty services expensive, but they can also expose patients to unnecessary radiation, inconvenience, and cause real harm.

Radiologists must also acknowledge potential conflicts of interest related to the overuse of imaging studies. For example, radiologists make more money if they perform more imaging studies. Therefore, additional imaging testing should only be recommended by radiologists when it is absolutely necessary. 

Too often, radiologists make casual recommendations about additional imaging tests that tie the hands of physicians and force them to order more tests purely for defensive reasons. However, this is different from how medical care should be. A doctor should put the patient first.

Over-screening for cervical cancer

The more you screen something, the more you are bound to find something wrong. However, “something wrong” might not always be significant enough to worry about. 

For example, HPV is very common. A positive HPV test does not necessarily mean you have a serious abnormality. Normally, HPV can go away independently after a couple of years. Of course, it is important to note that HPV detection and mild abnormalities can lead to more invasive procedures like colposcopy or cervical conization. However, for the average person, this is not the case.

Cost is another issue when you over-screen. To have additional procedures and tests, women must take time off work. The healthcare system can be negatively impacted by the cost of performing tests that provide little benefit to patients.

The average woman should only screen for cervical cancer—via a pap smear or HPV test—every three years if you’re between the ages of 21-65. Not getting a pap done at all is bad; however, getting a pap done every year isn’t great either. 

Despite this, a woman should get a yearly gynecological exam done. It should be considered a primary care visit. It’s important to put reproductive health first.

Overuse of Antibiotics

Some types of bacterial infections can be treated or prevented with antibiotics. They kill bacteria and prevent them from spreading. For the treatment of bacterial infections, antibiotics can be used in situations where:

  • The infection isn’t going away
  • The infection could be spread
  • Could risk more/worse complications.

Also, as a precaution, people at high risk of infection might be prescribed antibiotics. This is called antibiotic prophylaxis.

Nowadays, antibiotics aren’t used to treat as many infections. This is because many infections aren’t caused by bacteria. 

This is because many infections are virus-related, so antibiotics do not work. Also, antibiotics can have side effects and are not likely to speed up healing. Furthermore, the more antibiotics used for trivial conditions, the less likely they are effective when treating more serious conditions. Thus, people should not overuse antibiotics. 

Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in a decline in effectiveness and the rise of “superbugs.” These bacteria strains have shown resistance to many types of antibiotics, including:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
  • The bacteria that causes multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis

These infections can be very serious and difficult to treat. They are also a growing cause of disability and death around the globe.

Also, one of the greatest concerns that doctors have is the possibility of new strains of bacteria emerging that are resistant to existing antibiotics.

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March 2, 2023

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