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Medical Screenings: Saying “No” Can Be a Boon to Health

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One Word Can Save Your Life: No!” This Newsweek cover made me wonder how a word could save lives. It’s all about tests…too many of them.

At first I thought the article was slamming medical doctors and medicine, but I found it to be rather balanced in that regard. Sometimes tests are needed, but, simply stated, less is more in the area of medicine.

Sharon Begley, the author, states that more health care can sometimes harm one’s health, while less health care can often lead to better health (an idea that runs counter to most patients’ belief that screenings and treatments are only beneficial).

Begley quotes Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, as saying, “There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes.” Redberg adheres to this idea in her own life and has chosen not to screen for certain diseases for which screenings are recommended by her profession.

Others in the medical field are also looking more closely at screening options. An article in the Huffington Post reported that medical societies made up of family physicians, cardiologists, and other specialists are telling America’s doctors not to be so quick to order expensive procedures like CT scans and x-rays.

Another article, in the New York Times, reports a shift in people’s receptivity to hearing all the pros and cons of treatment before making a decision. In this article, Dr. Barry says, “When patients are fully informed, they tend to be more conservative.”

This conservatism Barry speaks about may have helped spark a growing interest in alternative medicines in place of and along with the traditional treatments of western medicine.

According to a 2002 NIH study on alternative medicines, out of the nine alternative medicines studied, the most used was prayer at 43%. The Bible is full of accounts of healing and health restoration through the use of prayer and my experience has been that prayer does heal – and is a reliable medicine for health challenges.

Saying No to screenings is changing our approach to keeping the body healthy. Awareness of over-diagnoses and the increased use of alternative medicines are important factors to watch as the public (and elected and appointed officials) work to define the limits of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care laws. These laws, as they were adopted, have the potential to create new mandates, which reach into every community and home.

One issue is whether each individual has the freedom to choose the type of health care he thinks is best for him, and that the insurance industry is able to provide. Insurance coverage for all choices, whether those choices involve traditional western medicine and/or alternative therapies like prayer, should be considered.

Say “Yes” to patient choice in the interest of health that is safe and meets our needs.

photo illustrated by Mykl Roventine.

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About Don Ingwerson

Previously in the education sector as Superintendent of Schools, Don Ingwerson now serves as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Southern California and corrects misconceptions about Christian Science. Don is a frequent blogger about health and spirituality.
  • Don Ingwerson

    I always appreciate other points of view whether I agree with them or not. I thank you for taking the time to respond to the article.

  • The Newsweek article fails abjectly to demonstrate its premise that screening can be more harmful than beneficial. What it actually says (several times over, in fact) is that tests and screenings often fail to detect disease. This is usually because there isn’t a disease present. Not sure why this is supposed to be a bad thing.

    The worst that can be said about most of the cases discussed is that the tests and screenings proved ineffective in detecting disease. It doesn’t require a dictionary to know that ineffectiveness and harm are not the same thing.

    The article’s few anecdotes are likewise unconvincing. There’s no proof, for instance, that the woman who suffered a torn artery when she had a stent put in was the victim of the procedure rather than of human error or some other factor that couldn’t have been foreseen. Even so, a complication from a stent is hardly the fault of the cardiac CT that prompted the doctors to insert it.

    There’s a small risk with any medical treatment, and in all but the most radical it’s tiny.

    Just as you would be skeptical of a car mechanic who recommends thousands of dollars’ worth of parts and maintenance when you take your vehicle in to have a dent repaired, it’s important to be an active partner in your own health. Ask questions. Make sure your doctor explains WHY he or she is recommending a particular test or screening, and what the pros and cons are. Find out if there are other options. And read up about all of it. That doesn’t have to mean going to the local university hospital and pulling journal articles out of the medical library: there are plenty of good, reputable sources of information for the layman (such as WebMD). If you’re still not sure, get a second opinion. The final say on whether you submit to the test should be yours, but base the decision on information, not suspicion.

  • Don Ingwerson

    Thank you Dr. Maresca for this gentle reminder.

  • It’s important to test inflammation markers.