Top Doctor: Make Sure Checkup Doesn't Do More Harm Than Good

Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013 07:00 AM

By John Bachman and Donna Scaglione

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Research shows that much of the screening done during routine physical exams — PSA tests and mammograms, for example — often does more harm than good. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of the best-selling book “From Fatigue to Fantastic,” says it’s time to reassess the checkup.

“Most people never feel better after having had a checkup,” he tells Newsmax Health. “They may be relieved that they don’t have cancer or other dreaded disease, but they don’t do anything to tune up how they feel.”



The focus of a checkup should be not so much on tests but on how you are feeling, he says. That means discussing with your physician issues such as how much sleep you are getting and whether you wake up exhausted. If you are, that could signal sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Fatigue also can be a sign of low thyroid hormone levels, which can appear normal in a blood test, he notes.

Generally, most healthy middle-aged adults need a checkup every two to three years. However, some tests should be conducted more often, such as blood sugar and blood pressure screenings, which should be done yearly to watch for signs of diabetes and heart disease, respectively.

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If your doctor suggests a test you may not want, it’s important to know the consequences of refraining from it.

“Basically you want to ask the doctor: What’s the risk if I don’t do this,” Dr. Teitelbaum says.

A colonoscopy, an examination of the colon for polyps with a thin, flexible scope, is one test patients shouldn’t skip, he says.

“It’s a pain in the bottom, but it’s one of the few screening tests that’s really worthwhile doing,” Dr. Teitelbaum says.

The procedure has been shown to prevent colon cancer, and the American Cancer Society recommends it every 10 years for people 50 and older who are at average risk.

Dental X-rays, offered yearly to many patients, raise concerns about radiation exposure, and some people question how necessary they are. Dr. Teitelbaum says they are less important to optimum oral health than a good diet is.

“I think the radiation is modest and I don’t personally believe that you need it yearly,” he says. “I think having a good diet without excess sweets, making sure you got plenty of vitamin C in your diet — those things are more important.”

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