Wednesday, June 21, 2006
  Fear and Ultrasounds at the Senior Center

I got a letter the other day from Life Line Screening.

Apparently, I could just drop dead from stroke at any moment now, nevermind that I'm just 35 years old. A painless 10 minute screening will help me avoid this terrible occurance. Not only that, but doctors can't help me, because they usually can't order diagnostic tests without symptoms.

An alarm goes off, but not the one they hoped. You see, I've just had my annual checkup. I have no symptoms of cervical cancer or HPV, but I had a Pap smear done. I have no symptoms of high cholesterol, but because there is a personal and family history of it, I had my cholesterol checked. In fact, the whole physical was about checking me for diseases that I haven't reported any symptoms for!

Life Line Screening can give me three ultrasound tests in 10 minutes for only $135. But wait, add on an ultrasound Osteoporosis screening for $170. But wait! There is a special price package: all four for only $129! Come to the LocalTown Senior Center on Date.

So, if these tests are so inexpensive and would save so many from stroke, then why isn't it a standard screening test?

I ran to my trusty oracle and asked, "Ultrasound screening stroke"

This is the first thing it told me:

The problems? The skill of the technician is questionable. Speed scans are a dubious way to pick up problems. There can be too many false negatives. And these tests are likely to lead to a visit with the doctor, scary results in hand. Doctor, of course, will be obligated to order more, expensive tests that will serve only to tell the patient that "yes, you are old and your arteries show it, but there isn't much we can do at this point but what we were already doing: regular checkups".

It's telling that one of the few professionals who thought these speed scans might not be bad had a different idea for venue: hospitals could offer them up for free and then profit from the additional tests any positives would generate.

"I shudder to think what would happen to me if I didn't have preventative health screenings. Pick up the phone now and call Life Line make an appointment for you and your loved ones," says Olympic champion and breast cancer survivor, Peggy Fleming just before she closed the letter by wishing me the best of health. She was a figure skater who went to the Olympics in 1968, for those who don't know, like I didn't before I consulted the oracle again.

I wonder how much money she got from putting her name on this letter?
Great stuff. Skeptical medical blogging at its finest. I'm proud to have in some way motivated this new endeavor. Great design too. I am always amazed at what some people can do with their blogspot blog. I remember how happy I was, several months into blogging, when I figured out how to make a link say whatever you want and not just have the bulky URL taking up space and throwing off the borders. And I haven't progressed much since then.

The doc in me has to say though that a large percentage of women with HPV infection, particularly the ones known to cause the most aggressive cancers, are asymptomatic. At least that is what Oprah told me yesterday.

Great job and don't forget to set-up the anti-comment spam features.
Thanks. Wow, you'd think I'd be a little more saavy about that concidering I had to install the software to set up my other blog, and how much spam I've moderated there of late. I have to admit this is actually a harder beast to tame than the other software.
The marketing of these test are very questionable (playing on people's fears), and as you pointed out, the technician may not be the most reliable.

What frustrates me is that some people would rather shell out $129 for questionable results on a test rather than get their prescription medicines because of one reason or another.

It also frustrates me that I'm not able to order more preventative health maintenance tests without symptoms. Part of the broken health care system, I guess.
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A Mormon housewife who loves truth, science, rational thought, and reasonable action.

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Location: Utah

Granola is a mix of things: grains, nuts, bits of dried fruit, maybe some coconut. There's some fat in it, and it's a good source of fiber to keep those arteries and colons clean.

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