Medical Tests & Procedures Archive


Answers to prostate cancer questions

Many men have questions regarding the testing and screening processes for prostate cancer, such as whether prostate-specific antigen tests are still the standard, when it is time for a biopsy, and what new technologies are available to help with a more accurate diagnosis. Harvard Medical School prostate cancer expert Dr. Marc Garnick provides the answers.

Adding ultrasound to mammography improves cancer detection rate

A combination of mammography and ultrasound may increase accuracy of breast cancer screening.

If it’s not breast cancer, should you worry?

Most breast lumps are not cancerous. Some 80% of biopsies are negative. But some women develop noncancerous breast conditions that may raise their risk of a future cancer. For women with these conditions, doctors may recommend additional monitoring. This might include additional screenings, or screenings using other technology, such as MRI or breast ultrasound.

From the wrist to the heart: A safer route for angioplasty?

At least half of all artery-opening angioplasties done in the United States now begin at the wrist instead of the top of the thigh. The wrist (or transradial) approach is easier on patients, safer, and less expensive. After the procedure, people can sit up right away instead of lying flat for several hours, and they are much less likely to experience bleeding, including serious bleeding in the abdomen. The lower complication rates mean people can leave the hospital sooner, which translates to decreased costs.

You don't say? Brain space

It’s thought that the average person uses just 10% of the brain. While some parts of the brain may be more active at any given time or during a particular activity, there is no part that is known to be unused or completely unnecessary.

Do BMI numbers add up?

For decades, researchers have used body mass index (BMI) to estimate a person’s body fat mass and predict possible health risks. While BMI is helpful, it can’t accurately measure the type of fat people accumulate, especially among older adults. Monitoring one’s waist size with a simple measuring tape may be a better option.

A blood test may predict increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease

A study published online June 2, 2021, by the journal Brain found that a blood test may help to predict an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Back to the doctor

People who’ve skipped medical check-ups for a while should visit their primary care doctor, dental hygienist, and eye doctor. A primary care doctor will consider a person’s blood pressure, medications, weight, alcohol intake, gait, balance, memory, hearing, mood, and levels of physical activity and socialization. To prepare for the visit, one should write down questions for the doctor and bring a list of all medications. At the appointment, one should take notes and ask any questions needed to understand the doctor’s instructions.

When imaging tests reveal unexpected findings

Heart imaging tests sometimes reveal potentially worrisome abnormalities in or near the heart that are unrelated to the original reason for the test. These "incidentalomas" are usually harmless, but not always. Before undergoing heart imaging tests, people should understand how the results may change their treatment and if they are willing to receive that therapy. If a test reveals an incidentaloma, a second opinion from a highly experienced cardiologist or radiologist may help patients feel more confident that a concerning finding is treated appropriately.

Drinking sugary beverages associated with colon cancer risk

Drinking two or more sugary drinks a day appeared to more than double the risk of colorectal cancer in women.

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