Monday, June 8, 2009

Eight Tests That Could Save Your Life - Forbes

Refreshing to see this article in the recent June issue of Forbes titled Eight Tests That Could Save Your Life. It's the boring and unsexy stuff that we need to focus on, like maintaining a healthy weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, getting cancer screenings done, and screening for diabetes. Using the US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, this piece is anchored is in the science and not theoretical hype of whole body scans and genetic testing.

From the article:
  • If you're healthy and trying to stay that way, the important tests are few and relatively low-tech: Measure your cholesterol, step on a scale, check for signs of a small number of cancers and tell your doctor if you feel depressed.

  • This advice may run contrary to what might be characterized as "test madness"--the tendency of doctors and patients to want to test in all sorts of ways, using dozens of parameters that purport to measure how well your internal bodily engine is running. More are proposed and touted by entrepreneurs all the time--such as exotic new genetic tests and whole-body scans. They claim they will spot disease before symptoms arise. But most have no data proving that taking the test will improve your health or lengthen your life.

Absolutely true about the "test madness". We'd like to believe that more tests and scans are better when in fact there is no evidence that is the case. This article is far different than others aimed at the high net-worth individuals which convince them that executive physicals can save lives (perhaps anecdotally, but not significantly).

Kudos to the authors and Forbes for publishing the truth and not falling into the allure of the hype. If more Americans worked on these simple common yet vitally important measures, then we as a nation would be far healthier and spend less than we do today.


Anonymous said...

I say "BS." My sister had a virtual colonoscopy that picked up a spot on her kidney. Turns out it was cancer and when they got in there to remove it - it was even better news "precancerous cells." They removed her one kidney. Had she not had that test and had they not found that, she eventually would have had full blown growing cancer and by the time she would have started experiencing any symptoms, it probably would have been too late. So she is very grateful for preventative screenings.

Davis Liu, MD said...

Dear Anonymous:

Glad your sister was diagnosed early.

She was lucky.

However, note exactly what you said, a virtual colonoscopy, which is to screen for colon cancer, happened to find a spot on her kidney.

What if it was the case that it was a benign kidney growth, which needed to have a biopsy and perhaps even a kidney removal as well. Would she feel equally as relieved to undergo surgery, loss of a kidney for a benign growth?

Research at this time doesn't support body scans. The Forbes article is correct at this time. There will always be stories about grateful individuals. You never hear about the stories from people who are harmed, worried unnecessarily from scans which picked up benign growths that also like your sister's case need to be worked up.


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