Getting off the medical testing merry-go-round

Just saying NO to testing (most of the time)

How much testing is needed? It depends on who you ask. My ideal number of tests each year is zero—and that goes for both kinds of medical tests: routine screening and diagnostic tests. A recent (11-28-12) article in the New York Times (See link below) inspired me to post this blog; it led off:

It is no longer news that Americans, and older Americans in particular, get more routine screening tests than they need, more than are useful. Prostate tests for men over 75, annual Pap smears for women over 65 and colonoscopies for anyone over 75 — all are overused, large-scale studies have shown. Now it appears that many older patients are also subjected to too-frequent use of the other kind of testing, diagnostic tests.

The difference, in brief: Screening tests are performed on people who are asymptomatic, who aren’t complaining of a health problem, as a way to detect incipient disease. We have heard for years that it is best to “catch it early” — “it” frequently being cancer — and though that turns out to be only sometimes true, we and our doctors often ignore medical guidelines and ongoing campaigns to limit and target screening tests.

Diagnostic tests, on the other hand, are meant to help doctors evaluate some symptom or problem. “You’re trying to figure out what’s wrong,” explained Gilbert Welch, a veteran researcher at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

While this procedure may be right for millions, I decided that it was not right for me.

Why have I chosen to have no tests? I used to have tests occasionally, although not nearly as often as the average person; probably because I never went to the doctor very often unless I had a problem.

And I always dreaded the day when I would have to have my first colonoscopy.  Well, that day never came. I cruised on by my 50th and 55th birthdays and just never got around to it.

Then, luckily for me, I started learning all about how I could take charge of my own health at age 57. In 2002, I began learning that most chronic diseases can be prevented, stopped or even reversed, if we simply eat an optimal whole foods, plant-based diet. And that includes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and a host of others.

Armed with that newfound knowledge (that most physicians do not have), I concluded that it didn’t make sense for me to ever have any routine screening. Mainly because I was already pretty darn sure that I would have never followed the recommended treatment paradigm even if I were diagnosed with colon cancer.

PSA Testing for Prostate Cancer

Diagnostic testing is a different story. If I were to begin suffering from some inexplicable malady, I would eventually want to have someone check it out. But I would seek out a physician who would be most likely to choose the least invasive treatment possible. I would follow the advice that I recently gave a friend. (See second link below for that blog.)

I told her that I had decided long ago what I would do if I had a serious medical condition. I would call the same people that Dr. T. Colin Campbell has called a few times. That would be the  professional team at TrueNorth Health Center, Santa Rosa, California. From their website:

TrueNorth Health Center was founded in 1984 by Drs. Alan Goldhamer and Jennifer Marano. The integrative medicine approach they established offers participants the opportunity to obtain evaluation and treatment for a wide variety of problems. The staff at TrueNorth Health Center includes medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, psychologists, research scientists, and other health professionals. The Center is now the largest facility in the world that specializes in medically supervised water-only fasting.

The Bottom Line. Once someone has been eating a health-promoting, whole foods, plant-based diet for more than five years, I really don’t think routine screening for chronic disease makes much sense. I know it doesn’t for me as I explained above.

As for diagnostic tests, the longer we consume an optimal diet, exercise, get adequate rest and have a positive mental attitude—the less frequently we’re ever going to develop a condition that might warrant such a test.

One more thing, in an earlier blog, I reported on a great idea for an innovative insurance business paradigm—by Dr. John McDougall. One of its features was that FAR fewer tests of all kinds would even be covered. Click on the third link below for more on this topic (includes a Dr. McDougall video). —My 665th consecutive daily blog—

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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1 Response to Getting off the medical testing merry-go-round

  1. Great, Jim, and help Pres. Obama lead the struggle to get healthy nutrition truth and guidance at the forefront of our U.S. government policy-making — per Dr. McDougall’s Nov. ’12 email newsletter today:
    Obama’s Nutritional Knowledge Will Heal America

    Congratulations to Barack Obama on his second-term victory. I have waited until this moment—a time when no future elections face him—to tell you that our President has been preparing his whole life to understand and implement a healthy diet for our ailing nation. I believe this is one of his greatest missions. The American people are fat and sick, and over-tested and over-treated. Unimpeded by political consequences, our 44th President no longer must bend to the pressures of the pharmaceutical, medical, and food industries. Because of his understanding of the truth and his flexibility, he is now in a position to support our country in becoming strong, productive, and healthy again.

    My Encounter with Barack Obama

    . . . Etc. . .

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