5 Medical Tests You Can Skip

Submitted on March 27, 2012
Do you frequently wonder if a test is really needed? Find out how often you’re right to question the need for such tests.
5 Medical Tests You Can Skip

You may have wondered on many occasions whether the test your doctor has ordered is really necessary. After all, what did doctors do before these tests were available? Weren’t they able to diagnose a condition without having to resort to some test or another? The frequency with which doctors ask us to undergo testing for even the most minor complaint is something that many medical and consumer groups are beginning to question.

While these medical tests serve a legitimate purpose, many tests are administered without being strictly necessary. Here is a list of the five most overused tests.

  • X-rays for back pain
  • MRI scans for lower back pain
  • Stress tests for people with low risk of cardiac disease
  • Routine Blood Tests
  • Preoperative chest x-rays if they are not needed

So how do you tell if the test you have been ordered to take is really necessary? According to the American Board of Internal Medicine, here are some of the procedures that you should question to see if they are really necessary:

  • Exercise stress tests during routine physical examinations if you are not at high risk for coronary heart disease
  • Imaging tests for low back pain that are ordered after a physical examination and aren’t caused by any specific disease or condition
  • Imaging tests if you have had a fainting episode but have no other neurological symptoms
  • Chest imaging tests or cardiac stress tests prior to surgery that has nothing to do with the heart
  • Screening for osteoporosis using dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) if you are a woman below 65 or a man below 70 and are not at risk for developing osteoporosis
  • Pap tests for women below 21 or women who have had their uterus removed for reasons other than cancer
  • PET or bone scans if you have early stage prostate cancer that has a low risk of spreading

Questioning the need for these tests helps you to better understand the risks involved. No test is without a certain element of risk. For example, imaging tests such as x-rays, DEXA and CT scans, for all their advantages, do expose you to harmful radiation. So while they are invaluable in helping doctors make a correct diagnosis, they should be used only when strictly necessary and not as a matter of routine.