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7 Health Tests You Just Don't Need

For people who want reassurances of their health, a growing number of private screening clinics and health tests have sprouting in recent years. However, they can often produce misleading results if examiners do not take account of people's backgrounds and their likelihood of developing certain diseases. Most of these tests also expose patients to unnecessary health risks. Here are 7 health tests you need to avoid:

Mammograms: With toxic radiation, mammogram testing compresses sensitive breast tissue causing pain and possible tissue damage. To make matters worse, the false negative and false positive rates of mammography are a troubling 30% and 89% respectively. Another concern is that many breast cancers occur below the armpits; however, mammography completely misses this auxiliary region, viewing only the breast tissue compressed between two plates of glass. Considering these drawbacks, breast thermography should be given closer consideration. Thermography is a non-invasive and non-toxic technique which can detect abnormalities before the onset of a malignancy, and as early as ten years before being recognized by mammography. This makes it much safer and potentially life-saving health test for women who are unknowingly developing abnormalities, as it can take several years for a cancerous tumor to develop and be detected by a mammogram.

Chiropractic X-Rays: Chiropractors can do wonderful assessments and treatments for a multitude of health problems. However, they do rely on an abundance of X-rays from their patients to make these assessments. It is not unheard of to have up to ten or more X-rays on an initial visit to a chiropractor. Many health experts have criticized Chiropractors who use X-rays only to read slight anomolies in the spine to market and sell their treatments. But most skilled chiropractors can assess and treat patients without X-rays. Those who have natural, holistic practices will only X-ray as a last resort or when a diagnosis is otherwise impossible through an external clinical approach. Any X-ray exposure is hazardous to the body, especially multiple doses within a specific period. If you don't have an acute injury or disabling condition, try and find a Chiropractor who doesn't need to zap you to find what's wrong with you.


PSA testing: A PSA blood test looks for prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland. High levels are supposedly associated with prostate cancer. The problem is that the association isn't always correct, and when it is, the prostate cancer isn't necessarily deadly. Nearly 20 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, which sounds scary, but only about 3 percent of all men die from it. The PSA test usually leads to overdiagnosis -- biopsies and treatment in which the side effects are impotence and incontinence. Moreover, there is some evidence which suggests that biopsies and treatment actually aggravate prostate cancer. During a needle biopsy, a tumor may need to be punctured several times to retrieve an amount of tissue that's adequate enough to be screened. It is believed that this repeated penetration may spread cancer cells into the track formed by the needle, or by spilling cancerous cells directly into the bloodstream or lympathic system.

DEXA: Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) in a technique developed in the 1980s that measures, among many things, bone mineral density. The scans can determine bone strength and signs of osteopenia, a possible precursor to osteoporosis. Limitations abound, though. Measurements vary from scan to scan of the same person, as well as from machine to machine. DEXA doesn't capture the collagen-to-mineral ratio, which is more predictive of bone strength than just mineral density. And higher bone mineral density doesn't necessarily mean stronger bones, for someone with more bone mass will have more minerals but could have weaker bones.

CT and Full-body scans: If you got extra cash, usually more than $1,000, you may be tempted to get a full-body CT scan to find everything wrong with you. Avoid that temptation. For the most part, these are done so poorly by purely commercial enterprises that the results are useless. The scan will definitely find something abnormal that is likely of little concern. And it could very likely miss something that is a concern. For example, these scans aren't done with special contrast agents to look for specific types of tumors or organ damage. You're left only with a false sense of confidence. CT technology itself is extremely harmful to the human body exposing patients to approximately 100 times the radiation of a standard chest X-ray which itself increases the risk of cancer.

Home Menopause Test: The home menopause test is almost in the realm of hokum, despite its popularity with a generation of women who grew up with the home pregnancy test. The test measures levels of FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone, in the urine. Not only does the kit not measure this well, but FSH in the urine is a poor indicator of menopause status. Perhaps of little surprise is that FSH levels, like many female hormones, vary from day to day, particularly for pre-menopausal women.

Home Alzheimer's Test: The home Alzheimer's test is a scratch-and-sniff test, useful according to the manufacturers because a loss of smell can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease. There's a little truth here. Anosmia, a loss of smell, has been associated with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. But that association seems rare; most anosmics don't have a degenerative brain disease. Your failure of the smell test is likely indicative of, well, a smelling problem. Yet while the home test verges on the naive, serious research continues on whether anosmia serves as some sort of canary in the coal mine for burgeoning neurological disorders.

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