4 Medical Tests That Could Do More Harm than Good

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Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 04/21/2014

Ask a lot of questions before agreeing to have these medical tests.Every student in medical school takes the oath, “to first do no harm.” Yet, many doctors unwittingly do harm every day by blindly prescribing medical tests that have the potential to do more harm than good.

While I wouldn’t tell you to avoid them altogether (sometimes they may be necessary), here are four medical tests I would ask a lot of questions about before agreeing to have them…

1. Abdominal CT Scan: Many conventional doctors feel the level of radiation present during diagnostic medical imaging tests is minimal and safe. The truth is that a CT scan, particularly that of the abdomen, exposes patients to levels of radiation comparable to Japanese atomic bomb survivors.

Most tests involve two or three scans for a total of 30–45 mSv, and often, repeat scans are ordered every few months to follow patients’ progress. Japanese atomic bomb survivors who received a “low” dose of radiation—an average of 40 mSv—had a significant increase in cancer risk. The only time I would agree to an abdominal CT scan is if it would be truly lifesaving, such as if there’s a suspected tumor in the gut.

2. Prostate Biopsy: Prostate biopsies are ordered by doctors all the time, yet the studies show that the difference in survival rates between those who treat their prostate cancer with the right diet, vs. those who undergo cancer treatment, is only 5%.

To prevent prostate cancer, you want to eat a healthy, organic, plant-based diet with multiple fruits and vegetables that include lots of natural and supplemental lycopene. Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, mustard and collard greens all help to protect your DNA. You also want to avoid saturated fats and only eat moderate amounts of unsaturated fats.

3. Breast Biopsy: Breast biopsies normally use a needle to remove a small sample of breast tissue when cancer is suspected. But instead of a biopsying a breast lump, I recommend having the lump removed. That’s because taking a biopsy can potentially drag abnormal cancer cells through otherwise healthy breast tissue.

4. Coronary Angiogram for Diagnostic Purposes: This procedure is extremely invasive. It involves threading a catheter into an artery, all the way to the heart. A radio-opaque dye is then injected, which lights up the heart and illuminates any blockages around it. Angiography is expensive ($5,000 to $10,000) and I don’t recommend it unless preliminary tests strongly suggest the presence of coronary artery disease.

If your doctor recommends a coronary angiogram, I would ask if a CT angiogram could be performed instead. It involves a lot less radiation and risk.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever declined any unnecessary medical tests?

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