Getting Less Medical Attention Can Mean Being Healthier

If patients better understood the health risks associated with certain kinds of medical care, they would likely seek less treatment.

If patients better understood the health risks associated with certain kinds of medical care, they would likely seek less treatment, according to a new review of studies published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine

The study found that because most patients overestimate the benefits they are likely to receive from certain treatments — ranging from cancer-screening tests to preventative medications and surgeries — they are likely to seek more care, even when serious medical risks result.

In a 2002 study reviewed by the current publication, for example, a majority of women believed that having a double mastectomy reduced their chances of getting breast cancer by 65 percent.

For 80 percent of those women, however, the real reduction was just 6 percentage points because they did not have the BRCA genetic mutation, which greatly increases the risk of breast cancer. 

An eagerness to root out potential disease often exposes patients to new risk factors, either because doctors had not informed them of the risks or because they preferred to focus on the rewards of taking medical action. Health professionals reporting on the study for The New York Times write:

"A single CT scan exposes a patient to the same amount of radiation as 300 chest X-rays, and carries with it a 1-in-2,000 chance of inducing a fatal cancer. More than 40 percent of patients underestimated a CT’s radiation dose, and more than 60 percent of patients underestimated the risk of cancer from a CT scan."

Dr. Mark Hyman, founder and Medical Director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass., explains how the American medical system tends to over diagnose wellness problems, and paper over them with Band-Aid treatments, instead of helping patients understand how they can live a healthier life in which less medical treatment is necessary.

"I’m a firm believer in do-it-yourself health, that self-care is where this all starts, and that 80 percent of health conditions can be solved without a physician. In fact, those patients who are going to physicians to solve those problems are not getting results — people with migraines and irritable bowel and reflux and obesity and diabetes and high blood pressure. They're getting medications that are Band-Aids on the symptoms, but not really dealing with the cause."

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less