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Medical Tests That Can Save Your Life: 21 Tests Your Doctor Won't Order ... Unless You Know to Ask    by David Johnson, David Sandmire & Daniel Klein order for
Medical Tests That Can Save Your Life
by David Johnson
Order:  USA  Can
Rodale, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This book covers 21 medical tests capable of detecting life threatening diseases early enough to do something about them. The first part of the book explains (from a United States perspective) the complex factors and financial pressures that often define which tests are offered to patients. The second part lists conditions alphabetically, with assessment charts to determine individual risk factors. Part three describes the 21 tests themselves, with brief overviews of available treatments.

The authors tell us that 'Disease prevention is ultimately your job, not your doctor's', and provide some of the tools needed to help do that job well. They inform us that though early detection and treatment have come of age, not all doctors have kept up with new possibilities, while even those who have are often 'hamstrung' by health care plan constraints. They explain why they do not endorse the full-body CT scan (all the rage with 'the worried wealthy') for everyone. And they discuss the new (again in the U.S.) trend of 'independent, mobile medical testing units'.

Advice is given on how to assemble your personal risk profile, which can then be used to assess risk factors for particular conditions (from an 'abdominal aortic aneurysm' to 'Type 2 diabetes' with quite a few cancers in between), and also on how to tactfully approach your doctor to request tests. Looking through risk factors for different diseases, it struck me how much it would reduce anyone's risk to avoid smoking and excessive drinking, and to control weight through regular exercise. But there are also other factors not under individual control, such as carrying 'BRCA gene mutation(s)'.

Tests are described, with information on what they reveal and how they're done, their reliability, associated health risks (if any) and typical cost (in the U.S.). Treatments discussed range from surgery, chemoprevention and radiation therapies, to lifestyle changes and medical management. Though I personally tend to be somewhat fatalistic about my own health, I found Medical Tests That Can Save Your Life helpful and informative. I plan to assess risk factors for close family members, and keep this volume handy on the shelf amongst my small selection of health reference books.

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