Monday, July 6, 2009

Misleading Advice - Sacramento Magzine article - 8 Medical Tests that MIGHT Save Your Life

Forbes ran a similar article about 8 medical tests that could save your life earlier this year. It was accurate, thoughtful, and correctly identified the "test madness" that is pervasive in our country. In a completely different perspective, Sacramento magazine had an article in the July issue titled as 8 medical tests that can save your life.

Unfortunately, that isn't true. The article perpetuates the lie that more testing is better.

The article would have been better titled as tests that MIGHT save your life.

The heart scan, vascular screenings, even the annual skin cancer check, not one has been proven to save lives. Theoretically they seem to make sense, but there is no evidence.

And that's the problem.

Our healthcare system spends a lot on high-tech gee-whiz imaging studies and the public is infatuated with these tests with television shows, like House, which highlight their use. Yet a recent article in the New Yorker by physician writer Atul Gawande, found while we in the United States order more tests we aren't healthier for it.

The problem with increasing technology and actually worse health outcomes has been illustrated in Shannon Brownlee's book Overtreated. Doctors assumed that metastatic breast cancer patients would need bone marrow transplants to save their lives, because of the phenomenal success of curing blood cancers like leukemias and lymphomas with the same treatment.

Insurance companies refused because there was NO proof to that theory, even though it sounded nice. Ultimately, insurance companies buckled due to public pressure and outcry when breast cancer patients felt that it was denial of medical care. Was it a win for patient advocacy?

Here's the sad irony. Despite many desperate women undergoing brutal chemotherapy for bone marrow transplant, the research results finally showed that standard chemotherapy was better. Bone marrow transplant killed women, who falsely believed that it was superior. They died unnecessarily and needlessly because there was no proof.

Conclusion? This Sacramento magazine article should have been titled as 8 Medical Tests that "MIGHT" Save Your Life rather than "CAN". Save your money on these questionable exams. There is a reason why insurance companies won't pay for them. They aren't proven to save lives.
In the end, that is what really matters.

1 comment:

jneptune said...

Hi Davis,

Thanks very much for your insightful comment on our Healogica Blog.

We checked out your blog and your website and we think your thoughts would be of interest to our readers.

Would you be interested in potentially doing a guest blog post for us? Do you have any thoughts on clinical trial participation?

When you have a moment I would appreciate hearing back from you. Please let me know if you have any questions - I can be reached at

Take care,
Jean-Luc ("JL") Neptune MD, MBA
Healogica, Inc.

P.S. Apologies for leaving this message in your comments but I couldn't find your e-mail address on any of your web properties.


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