Testing times.

Medical_Laboratory_Scientist_US_NIH

At some point in your life, you’ll be tested – by a clinical laboratory.

Medical tests provide information that your doctor may need to find out what’s wrong with you.

The sad fact is many clinical labs in India have poor quality standards. Until things change on the clinical scene, you have to ask your doctor:

SOME TEST QUESTIONS

Why?  Is the test usually done for your age group or will it diagnose a specific illness you may have?

What if?  If the result is abnormal, do you really have the illness? If the test result is normal, are you still safe?

When?  What’s the best time of the day to do the test?  Do you need to be on an empty stomach or avoid certain foods that may affect the test results?

Where?  The most important question and sometimes, the difference between life and death.  If your doctor seems to promote one particular testing lab., you need to know why.

Don’t hesitate to ask around about different labs. And don’t get deceived by corporate cleavages.  That dazzling receptionist won’t be doing the test – the chemist inside the lab will. In general, look for a testing lab that has the NABL certification.

And after? Will your existing treatment change in any way after the test?

Then what?  Suppose you don’t take the test at all, then what?  Will you suddenly drop down dead?

Most doctors honestly tell their patients if a given test isn’t really necessary or if they’re ordering the test merely to reassure the patient.  And if your doctor refuses to order a test in spite of your insisting on it, please listen to him.

BEAR IN MIND

Tests can be wrong.  They may produce a normal result even when illness is present  (a false-negative) or they may produce an abnormal result even in good health (a false-positive).

Many routine tests have not been subjected to rigorous research regarding their usefulness.  Cardiac stress tests for example, occasionally produce normal results even in patients with significant heart disease.

Ask about the risks associated with the test procedure itself.  An MRI scan is non-invasive and safe, but some patients can get really scared inside the coffin-like MRI tunnel.  I’ve seen several patients who had to be sedated before an MRI. When it was my turn for an MRI, I was a bit nervous too.

Whereas, a coronary angiogram or a colonoscopy is a clearly invasive test and carries a definite element of risk.  So don’t feel shy to ask, it’s your right.

Clinical tests are expensive, uncomfortable and sometimes cause unnecessary worry.  So be clear about why you need that clinical test.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

Cheers … Srini.