Tests and procedures
People who think they have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) may expect or request a wide range of blood tests to confirm diagnosis. Yet a much simpler, less costly test can identify hypothyroidism in almost everyone.
While the incidence of colorectal cancer has declined among older adults, it has increased in people younger than 50. The American Cancer Society now recommends that adults be screened for this condition starting at age 45.
Stool transplantation has become a standard treatment for people who have had multiple recurrent episodes of a bacterial infection; although the procedure has not been approved by the FDA, the success rate is high and the procedure is very safe.
Colonoscopy remains the best way to detect colorectal cancer, but there are at-home screening tests that do not involve the pre-test bowel clearing that many find uncomfortable.
Many people who believe they are allergic to penicillin do not in fact have this allergy. Additionally, people who were allergic in the past may no longer be. An allergist can use various tests to determine whether a person has a true allergy.
When a person needs to be intubated to help them breathe, they are unable to speak, and if something happens it’s possible for someone to die without a chance to have a final conversation with their loved ones. But it’s possible for doctors to adjust intubation protocol to allow for such a conversation.
A stomach infection of H. pylori bacteria can cause ulcers, but not everyone with the infection shows symptoms and the treatment process can be challenging, so only people with certain conditions need to be tested for it.
The history of medicine is filled with remedies that were relied upon for hundreds of years until they were eventually proven ineffective or possibly even dangerous, while legitimate practices and treatments were disregarded or ridiculed until evidence outweighed skepticism. The bottom line is that medical interventions — from tests to treatments — should neither be recommended nor condemned without considering and weighing the evidence. A future post will discuss what physicians look for when evaluating “the evidence.”
In a British study, a specialized type of MRI test did significantly better at identifying high-grade prostate tumors than a transrectal ultrasound biopsy. It’s hoped that one day this test might help men avoid prostate biopsies and their potential complications.
Low LDL cholesterol and high HDL cholesterol lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. That is what the studies have always shown us. But a new study suggests that low HDL itself may not be the risk factor for heart disease we thought it was. It could merely be a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle, or other health risk factors, that also contribute to heart disease. Trying to find medications to raise HDL cholesterol may not be as effective as encouraging people to adopt healthier habits.