Too much cancer screening, too many heart tests, too many cesarean sections. A spate of recent reports s u g ge s t t h a t t o o ma ny Americans — maybe even President Barack Obama — are being overtreated. Is it doctors practicing defensive medicine? Or are patients so accustomed to a culture of medical technology that they insist on extensive tests and treatments? A combination of both is at work, but now new evidence and guidelines are recommending a step back and more thorough doctor-patient conversations about risks and benefits. As a medical journal editorial said this week about Obama's recent checkup, Americans including the commander in chief need to realize that "more care is not necessarily better care." Obama's exam included prostate cancer screening and a virtual colonoscopy. The PSA test for prostate cancer is not routinely recommended for any age and colon screening is not routinely recommended for patients younger than 50. Obama is 48. Earlier colon cancer screening is sometimes recommended for high-risk groups — which a White House spokesman noted includes blacks. Doctors disagree on whether a virtual colonoscopy is the best method. But it's less invasive than traditional colonoscopies and doesn't require sedation — or the possible temporary transfer of presidential power, the White House said. The colon exam exposed him to radiation "while likely providing no benefit to his care," Dr. Rita Redberg, editor of Archives of Internal Medicine, wrote in an online editorial. Obama's experience "is multiplied many times over" at a huge financial cost to society, and to patients exposed to potential harms but no benefits. "People have come to equate tests with good care and prevention," Redberg, a cardiologist with the University of California at San Francisco, said in an interview Thursday. "Prevention is all the things your mother told you — eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, don't smoke — and we've made it into getting a new test."
Too many tests?
Experts say U.S. doctors overtest, overtreat
Published: Friday, March 12th, 2010
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