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Experts Say US Doctors Overtesting, Overtreating

03.13.2010 - Value Based Purchasing

Too much cancer screening, too many heart tests, too many cesarean sections. A spate of recent reports suggests that many Americans are being overtreated.

Americans need to realize that "more care is not necessarily better care," wrote cardiologist Dr. Rita Redberg, editor of Archives of Internal Medicine.

This week alone, a New England Journal of Medicine study suggested that too many patients are getting angiograms - invasive imaging tests for heart disease - who don't really need them; and specialists convened by the National Institutes of Health said doctors are too often demanding repeat cesarean deliveries for pregnant women after a first C-section.

Last week, the American Cancer Society cast more doubt on routine PSA tests for prostate cancer. And a few months ago, other groups recommended against routine mammograms for women in their 40s, and for fewer Pap tests looking for cervical cancer.

Experts dispute how much routine cancer screening saves lives. It also sometimes detects cancers that are too slow-growing to cause harm, or has false-positive results leading to invasive but needless procedures - and some risks. Treatment for prostate cancer that may be too slow-growing to be life-threatening can mean incontinence and impotence. Angiograms carry a slight risk for stroke or heart attack.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/12/AR2010031201083.html