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How can I decide if I need a specific medical test?

To determine if someone needs a specific medical test, we take a detailed history of their symptoms and give them a physical. Based on their physical, we usually try to come up with a short list of possible diagnoses. In order to identify the right diagnosis, we perform blood tests and maybe even other screenings like an electrocardiogram, depending on what we think it is.

Ask your primary care physician whether you need a specific medical test. Your primary care physician can help you decide on what blood work you need based on your age, gender and medical history.

When you see your doctor, remember that when it comes to testing, more is not better. There are risks associated with unnecessary testing. The results of any test should have the potential to improve your care and subsequent health, and test results obtained by subspecialists should be routinely shared with your primary physician to limit duplication and wasteful spending.

There are very few “routine tests.” Electrocardiography (EKGs), chest X-rays and most laboratory tests are not useful for prevention or health maintenance. Tests and procedures should be done with specific goals in mind and when the benefits outweigh the risks involved.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.