When you live with a Chronic illness, you get used to periodically taking tests. Blood-work is probably the most common, but there are others too. It’s part of managing your disease. And you get used to taking medications. But have you ever wondered: How much is too much? Have you ever felt like a guinea pig instead of a patient? Unfortunately, millions of people have. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment is becoming a serious healthcare problem.
For example, in a 2014 analysis report, researchers noted that about 40% of adults worldwide have Hypertension. And more than half of them have mild cases of the disease (meaning they’re at low risk and don’t have existing cardiovascular disease). Yet, half of the patients with mild cases were being given blood pressure-lowering drugs (even though there is no research on whether this reduces cardiovascular-related disease and death). Let that sink in, for a moment. Researchers argue that this “overtreatment” is unnecessary. And it costs over $32B a year, in the U.S. alone!
You may be thinking that it’s better to err on the side of caution. But can we actually call overdiagnosis a cautionary move? Personally, I don’t think so. According to the NCBI, overdiagnosis is “the diagnosis of a medical condition that would never have caused any symptoms or problems”. Aside from unnecessary treatment, this type of diagnosis can also lead to harmful issues of stress and anxiety.
For the record, overdiagnosis is not a misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis is when a doctor says cancer, but what the patient actually has is a benign cyst. Overdiagnosis is the correct diagnosis. But it is diagnosing illnesses that may never actually make you sick. Most screening tests can lead to overdiagnosis. This is not to say that you should avoid having tests. They can and have proved to be vital to our health. But if you are starting to feel like a guinea pig, it could be time to seek a second opinion. If you question a diagnosis, then listen to that little inner-voice that’s eating at you — get a second opinion. Your health may be better for doing so.
According to the Harvard Health Letter, there are 5 things you should know about seeking a second opinion:
- They’re less common than you think.
- Your doctor won’t be mad.
- You may need to make your priorities known.
- The first opinion may affect the second.
- You may need to bridge a communications breakdown.
It may feel awkward to ask for one, but this is your health. Your life. Your right.
If you are sick and actually experiencing symptoms, you need treatment. That’s a given. But, today, we are seeing growing numbers of overtreatment. This encompasses a wide range of healthcare, from routine tests to surgeries. A study published in September of 2017, estimated that 21% of medical care is unnecessary. This leads to more medical expenses, higher insurance costs, more medications, stress, anxiety, possibly even financial hardship for many patients. And none of us needs that.
So before you nod your head and go along with whatever is being said, remember … you aren’t a guinea pig! Speak up. Ask questions. Seek a second opinion. It’s your body and your health. You deserve good, quality care — not bad medicine!
*Photo by Katherine McAdoo on Unsplash