Fresh Eye on the Radio: Forget what you know about medicine

This has not been a good week for the conventional wisdom of medicine. Today, for example, researchers released a study that shows angiograms — the procedure where a “balloon” is put in a blocked artery — are often not necessary. The study says doctors often perform the angiogram because they’re afraid of missing something and getting sued.

Earlier this week, the man responsible for the P.S. A. test — used to determine if a man has prostate cancer — wrote in the New York Times that the test isn’t any more effective than flipping a coin.

Prostate cancer may get a lot of press, but consider the numbers: American men have a 16 percent lifetime chance of receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer, but only a 3 percent chance of dying from it. That’s because the majority of prostate cancers grow slowly. In other words, men lucky enough to reach old age are much more likely to die with prostate cancer than to die of it.

And within the last few weeks, medical researchers have said that the one-aspirin-a-day therapy might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

A Newsweek article this week said “an estimated one fifth to one third of U.S. health-care costs, at least $500 billion a year, goes toward tests and treatments that do not benefit patients–routine CT scans in the ER, antibiotics for colds, and Pap tests for women who do not have a cervix.

And that “do no harm” thing? Here’s Stephen Smith of Brown University Medical School.

“I hate to say it, but it’s true: doctors sometimes do things that do not benefit patients and can even be harmful,” he says.

It’s one of today’s items in the daily news conversation with The Current’s Mary Lucia.

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