Should You Get That Scan? Your Doctor Might Not Be Great At Helping You Decide

Your doctor probably nags you to schedule cancer screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. These tests, after all, can be life-saving, and most doctors want to make sure you get them done.

But when it comes to explaining the ways that certain screenings can cause you harm, your doctor may not be doing such a good job.

A study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at how well doctors talked about the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening — and, well, they could use some help.

The study was small — only 14 doctors’ visits were evaluated — but it examined uncensored conversations between doctors and patients, providing a window into what actually goes on in the exam room.

Published as part of a JAMA series called Less Is More, the study is part of a growing body of research on the costs — both financial and otherwise — of too much treatment and testing.

“It’s about a deeper issue: … Is healthcare structured to give patients the information they need to make informed decisions?” says Dr. Daniel Reuland, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and the senior author of the study. “Are we really committed to being patient-centered?”

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