It’s natural to just say yes to medical tests, but more screening is not always better for your health. If any of these situations come up, consider a longer conversation.

By Tula Karras
April 28, 2017

Chances are you’re fairly comfortable in your role as patient: You come prepared with questions, downplay the hours you spent Googling symptoms, and listen carefully to any next steps. But how practiced are you at questioning doctor’s orders when it comes to tests and procedures?

Not only are some tests unnecessary, but they can point a physician toward the wrong diagnosis, cause undue stress and cost, lead to further unnecessary testing, and even make your health condition worse. “Almost every test has some degree of risk,” cautions Joshua Kosowsky, MD, coauthor of When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests. Quite often, a diagnosis can be made based solely on a physical examination and a patient’s history, says Brandon Combs, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a senior fellow for medical education at the Lown Institute, an organization that works to make health care more personalized. Even though unnecessary tests can be harmless, discussions about them can eat up valuable appointment time that might be better spent addressing issues that have a major impact on your physical health, such as diet or smoking, or your mental health, says Combs.

The tests here are ones that you simply may not need or that may carry more risks than benefits. If your medical professional suggests one, you should feel comfortable asking some follow-ups.

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