So here I was scanning Twitter on my train ride home when I come across a few tweets from Shark Tanker and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. (Special thanks to for flagging me to them.)
Whoa, what? This is terrible advice to give people. And I said as much!
This was a 2011 conversation on NPR's Talk of the Nation between Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, author of Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, and Ira Flatow.
"But the truth is there are really two sides to the story. I think patients are used to thinking of treatments as having side effects, but so does testing. And the side effect of looking for early forms of disease is that we find, virtually, all of us have some. That's because we all harbor some abnormalities. And we never know which patients are those that have abnormalities that are going to cause problems in the future. So we tend to treat everybody we find with an abnormality and that means we're just treating some patients who can't benefit from our treatment because they were never going to develop the problem at hand if they're overdiagnosed," Welch said.
Medicine is complex. Patients should be encouraged to be active participants in their health care. But there's this belief, and it's wrong, that screening tests can only help, not hurt, as Welch notes. There are false positives and false negatives. There's fear that results from an abnormal result (even if it later proves normal) and there's treatment. And treatment comes with side effects.
Doctors from around the country started chiming in.
This did not placate Cuban, though.
He's, of course, not correct. If you have diabetes, you should be regularly monitoring your blood sugar. Those with high or low blood pressure, should be taking their readings regularly. Experts recommend annual HIV tests. But those are different from regular blood work, let alone quarterly blood work.