In the not too distant past, while practicing medicine and when making a diagnosis doctors often relied solely on their knowledge, and their experience gained and shared with their fellow doctors. With improvements in technology there has been a rapid increase in the use of diagnostic tests, and this has become a key component of “evidence based medicine” (EBM), which is now being widely taught in medical schools around the world.
In general, medical tests are used in a wide variety of settings including:
- Screening – Based on known disease risk factors, this can lead to the identification of at risk individuals. This includes taking blood pressure, PAP smears for cervical cancers, skin checks for melanoma etc
- Diagnosis – While certain symptoms may be present, often it is not entirely clear which disease (or diseases) caused them, or whether if there is any disease at all. Diagnostic tests are also used in identifying the stages in a disease cycle
- Management – This is where tests are used in the management of a patient. This includes determining the severity of a disease, ongoing evaluation of disease progression, as well as deciding on treatment options
As an integral part of detoxing, in addition to looking for specific symptoms, sometimes you will need more information. This type of toxicology testing can provide you with to gain much more clarity on what is going on. The following toxicity assessment tests are commonly used:
There are a number of risks associated with tests, and many of these involve test interpretation and borderline cases (including false positives and false negatives).
A false positive is where a test comes back showing there is a problem, whereas in actual fact there is no problem at all. This can result in tremendous psychological stress as well as treatments that are unnecessary or maybe harmful.
A false negative is where a test shows there is no problem but in actual fact it somehow missed the fact that there is. This can result in a disease remaining undetected until much later in its stage of development at which stage it may be untreatable.
Interpretation risks are a direct result of the increasing number of tests and their increasing levels of sophistication. It isn’t always easy to determine which specific test is required and interpreting results can also be quite difficult.
Mistakes in test selection and test results interpretation are more common than you might think. This often can lead to the ordering of additional tests, sometimes at great expense to the patient or to the health system.
Other types of tests carry a physical risk, for instance invasive tests where a biopsy (tissue sample) is taken, or those that require the use of a general anesthetic (which has its own associated risks).
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Robert C Hawkins, The Evidence Based Medicine Approach to Diagnostic Testing: practicalities and limitations, Clinical Biochem Review, Vol 26(2), May 2005
C. Diana Nicoll, and Michael Pignone, Chapter e3. Diagnostic Testing & Medical Decision Making, Current Medical Dx & Tx, Access Medicine, www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=21980
Medical test, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_test