Unnecessary Medical Screenings
To the Editor:
I recently received a letter from Life Line Screening telling me that I am due for five specific screenings. They are offering a personalized package just for me for $159. They assured me that they would not encourage me to take a screening if I wouldn’t benefit from it and warned me to not ignore their recommendations. I’m not sure how they arrived at these “personalized recommendations”. I know they didn’t talk to my doctor because I had previously asked her about these screenings and she said they’re pointless and that none of the conditions they’re screening for would be treated unless there are symptoms.
I also looked through the United Sates Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) web site. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of Americans by systematically reviewing all the research and making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services.
The Task Force assigns each recommendation a letter grade based on the strength of the evidence and the balance of benefits and harms of a preventive service. (A) Recommended, the benefit is substantial. (B) Recommended, benefit is moderate to substantial. (C) Net benefit is small. Offer or provide this service for selected patients depending on individual circumstances. (D) Recommended Against. There is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits. And finally (I) Insufficient Evidence to assess balance of benefits and harms. The Task Force does not consider the costs when determining a recommendation grade. The recommendations apply only to people who have no signs or symptoms of the specific disease or condition under evaluation.
Not one of the five screenings Life Line is telling me I need is recommended by USPSTF. Two get a D rating, Recommended Against. The other three received I ratings, Insufficient Evidence to assess balance of benefits and harms.
In the May/June 2019 edition of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, in an article by Harriet Hall, MD “Reality is the Best Medicine, Too Many Medical Tests”, she wrote the following concerning medical screenings. “Various companies and healthcare providers offer screening tests that are not recommended by the USPSTF and are not covered by insurance. One of the biggest offenders is Life Line, which advertises deceptively, sets up in churches or other community buildings, and offers non-recommended ultrasound screening tests to the general public. They are essentially selling FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Doctors have to pick up the pieces and reassure Life Line’s worried customers that no, they are not in danger.”
Anyone being offered these screenings might what to consult their doctor and/or the United Sates Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) web site before agreeing to them.