Some Health Screenings May Harm More Than Help

Some Health Screenings May Harm More Than Help
October 28, 2013

One of those questionable tests is carotid artery screening, which looks for plaque buildup in a neck artery that can cause a stroke. It’s on the American Academy of Family Physicians’ list of procedures to avoid.

With that test, “the patient is more likely actually to have a stroke because of the screening and subsequent testing and possible surgery than if they’d never been screened at all,” says Dr. Glen Stream, who chairs the academy’s board.

The problem, he says, is that many of the findings are false positives — in other words, things that may be abnormal but won’t ever hurt you. But once you find something, he says, it’s hard not to aggressively treat it, even when that’s not the right approach.