Skip to main content

Medical Tests - think twice

An article in the New York Times struck home with me today. It has to do with excess radiation exposure from CT scans, X-rays and other ionizing radiation from medical tests.

Many patients think more is better when it comes to diagnostic testing. They request scans for headaches, backaches, new knee pain and screening total body scans "just to make sure I'm ok". Despite warnings that body scans often pick up slight abnormalities that are not significant but need to be followed up on with biopsies and more invasive tests, many patients believe it is worth it if the test can find that 1/10,000 early cancer.

According to a new study, the dose of ionizing radiation from clinical imaging exams in the U.S. increased almost 600% from 1980 to 2006. CT scans,nuclear medicine exams and cardiac studies deliver the most radiation. X-rays have been classified as carcinogens by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and excess exposure causes leukemia, thyroid, breast and lung cancer.

The American College of Radiology says mammograms deliver only 0.7mSv radiation and a bone density scan is only 0.01mSv. Compare that to a single CT scan that can expose a patient to 10mSv. The new multislice scanners deliver even more radiation.

We are blessed to live in an age with technology that can help us diagnose illness, treat disease and extend our lives far beyond our grandparents. But new technology comes with a cost, both in health care dollars and in exposure to radiation. The smart patient will ask "Is this test necessary?" The smart patient will avoid total body scans unless it is for a specific diagnostic question.


Thus the price of health care insurance and doing business in the health care industry.

More isn't always better. I have a doctor who is on the conservative side with tests. I think he's got the right idea. Many back aches I've had simply just went away like he said they would.
One more thing - being in the medical diagnostic field myself. Once we perform a test and find the slight irregularity we are then obligated to take it futher- even though it may be something totally benign

Popular posts from this blog

scintillating scotoma

Nothing like experiencing a medical condition first-hand to really help a doctor understand it from the patient's point of view.  After all these years, I had my first (and hopefully last) scintillating scotoma while sitting on the couch playing "words with friends" on my ipad and watching TV.  A scotoma is a partial loss of vision in a normal visual field.  Scintillate is flashing, sparkles.  Put them together and you have moving, flashing sparkles with a blind spot in your eyes.

This visual aura was first described in the 19th century  by a Dr. Hubert Airy who had migraine headaches.  The visual sparks and flashes are in a zig-zag pattern and they can precede a migraine headache or occur without any pain.   The scotoma affects both eyes and closing one or the other does not make it go away.  Sometimes the term "ocular migraine" or "retinal migraine"  are used to describe this phenomenon but these involve only one eye, not both.  The terms are often …

Do Doctors Make Too Much Money?

An article in theNew York Times says the reason health care costs are so high in the United States is because doctors are paid too much. I saw that and my eyes bugged out. I just came home from a meeting with physicians and hospital administrators and the entire meeting was spent discussing the financial challenges physicians face in keeping their doors open to see patients. The goal of this meeting was to keep health services in that community so patients will have someone to care for them. Not a person in the room would agree that the doctors earn too much.

Physicians paid too much? Lets break that down. A doctor spends a minimum of 11 years in education and training after the age of 18. Many are in training for 15 or more years. They are living on student loans and contributing zero to their family's income until the residency years. At that time they earn less than minimum wage if you factor in the 80-100 hour workweek. When a doctor emerges from training (and believe me…