The Top 5 Tests You Probably Don't Need, From the October 2013 Harvard Health Letter

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Whole-body CT scans, routine ECG screening, coronary calcium scores, chest screenings, and tuberculosis skin tests are not recommended.

Some health tests, such as colonoscopies and cholesterol checks, are wise preventive measures. Others aren't, and may be unnecessary, reports the October 2013 Harvard Health Letter. "I think we're doing too much screening," says geriatrician Dr. Suzanne Salamon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

Screening means checking seeming healthy individuals for hidden disease. Sometimes it finds a problem. More often it leads to the discovery of harmless variations of normal body parts, which then leads to expensive, anxiety-producing, and often painful testing and unnecessary procedures—none of which would have been needed without the initial test.

So which tests should be avoided? Harvard experts say that for individuals who don't have any symptoms or family history of a particular ailment, it can be a good idea to skip the test that screens for it. Five tests that can often be skipped include:

  •     electrocardiograms
  •     whole body CT scans
  •     coronary calcium scores
  •     tuberculosis skin tests
  •     and low-dose CTs for lung cancer

It's important to talk with a doctor, though, before making the decision to forego a screening test.

Read the full-length article: "The top 5 tests you probably don't need"

Also in the October 2013 issue of the Harvard Health Letter:

  •     How to tell the difference between the blues and depression
  •     Reading a food label to make sense of carbs, calories, and fat
  •     Normal eye pressure can mask normal-tension glaucoma

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $16 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

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Natalie Ramm
Harvard Health Publications
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