Five Medical Trends That Need To Go!
Wanna play doctor? It’s easier than ever, thanks to the new walk-in labs and medical centers popping up in strip malls and on street corners. You can check your cholesterol and thyroid levels and rule out Lyme disease, among other things–all without a physician’s referral! And these clinics are perfectly legal in several states.
Some of the appeal, of course, is convenience: You just stroll into a lab–Quest Diagnostics is the leading provider of such services–no appointment needed. If there isn’t a walk-in lab nearby, you can go to Web sites such as www.healthcheckusa.com or www.directlabs.com. After perusing and ordering the tests you want, you’ll be directed to a lab in your area where you can have them done. For people who want to take their self-testing to a higher (and more expensive) level, imaging centers now offer total body scans–which take a 3-D image of internal organs–virtual colonoscopies, and more. These procedures are just a phone call away.
The quality of the facilities providing these services is not at issue; they must meet the same state standards as labs that don’t market directly to consumers. But doctors worry about the end results. “Lab testing services don’t offer medical advice, so there’s no one to help the patient interpret the findings,” says Edward Hill, M.D., chairman of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association. Some screening tests may even be questionable: Many physicians don’t consider the CA-125 blood test for ovarian cancer to be a helpful routine screening tool, for example. And procedures such as total body scans and virtual colonoscopies are not risk free, explains Dr. Hill.
They can also have a domino effect. Most problems detected by body scans are false alarms, according to James Borgstede, M.D., a spokesperson for the American College of Radiology. If a scan detects something suspicious, you’ll need additional screening tests to rule out any problems. And a negative result can give you a false sense of security. “There should be concrete reasons for ordering tests,” says Dr. Hill. “It’s more prudent to let a well-trained physician guide your care.”
Still like the idea of playing doctor? Mull this over: You’ll probably have to pay for whatever test you order; insurers generally won’t pick up the tab.–Janis Graham
 Pre-birth photos
It’s the latest thing–getting a jump start on the photo album before the baby is born. Around the country, expectant parents are flocking to special portrait studios with catchy names like Before the Stork and Fetal Fotos. For $65 to $170, Mom and Dad walk away with an ultrasound video or ultrasound snapshots-some with images so crisp, they show gender, facial features, and hair. What’s wrong with this picture? No doctor is directly involved. A fetal photo is no substitute for a medical ultrasound. The technician at the studio can show you how your baby looks, but only your doctor can tell you if the baby is healthy and growing properly. According to Tracie Pierce, director of operations at Fetal Fotos, the nation’s largest ultrasound portrait studio, the images are a great “bonding experience.” But the FDA frowns on in-the-womb photo sessions, and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine strongly discourages using ultrasound for “entertainment purposes.” Ultrasound (which uses sound waves to create an image) has never been shown to be harmful, though there’s a nagging worry that studies may one day turn up a hazard. In the end, parents-to-be must weigh the potential folly against the fun. And keep in mind, many doctors who do ultrasound are more than willing to send you home with an image of your growing baby … one that’s also covered by insurance.–J.G.
 Dental day spas
Rare is the woman who can resist a relaxing foot massage or the pampering of a professional pedicure. But all this as a prelude to … a root canal?
Faster than you can say porcelain veneer, many dental offices are morphing into day spas–offering everything from facials to fillings. One reason: Fluoridated water and better oral care mean fewer cavities–which translates into fewer patients and more chairs for dentists to fill.
At these spas, beauty services are offered before, after, and even during the dentistry. Some, like foot massages, may be free, while others come with a hefty price tag. The idea has created such industry buzz that this spring the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry will offer a how-to course for eager practitioners.
Still, a number of dentists worry that these spas could hurt the quality of oral care: Getting a pedicure during a root canal could make the environment less sterile. Adds Leslie Seldin, D.D.S., an American Dental Association consumer advisor, “Spa treatments are a marketing tool totally unrelated to dentistry.”
Some offices are opting for compromise: skipping potentially disruptive in-chair treatments like pedicures, but adding relaxation aids like scented candles and soothing music And that’s enough to make us smile.
 Thinking too much
A friend fails to return your call. Not a great feeling, but not worth losing sleep over. So why do you find yourself up at night, rehashing the slight?
“Women take one small negative and link it to others,” says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., author of the new book Women Who Think Too Much. The forgotten phone call, for instance, grows from she’s-really-mad-at-me fears into I’m-not-worthy-of-friendship insecurities. “The snowball effect is paralyzing–you feel too overwhelmed to address the issue,” says Nolen-Hoeksema.
This pattern isn’t just self-defeating, it’s also unhealthy: Numerous studies link overthinking to depression. The solution, says Nolen-Hoeksema, is to do a crossword, sing out loud, assemble your new DVD player–“anything that interrupts the mental replay loop.” Another tip: Rather than obsessing, use that time to focus on a solution. Why not give your friend another ring to find out what’s really going on? When it comes to problem solving, navel-gazing only gets you so far.
 Wine, women–and Botox
It’s the 21st-century version of the Tupperware party. Women (and, yes, men) are gathering in private homes to sip Champagne, snack on hors d’oeuvres, and get frown lines removed. Welcome to the latest wrinkle in the quest to look young: Botox parties, a trend that has many experts worried. “People are being treated in settings that may be unsterile and ill equipped to handle an emergency,” says New York City plastic surgeon Alan Matarasso, M.D., a spokesperson fm The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. And patients aren’t getting one-on-one attention either. Another potential problem: Because Botox-which is derived from botulinum toxin-temporarily paralyzes facial muscles, it’s crucial to slay uptight for several hours after an injection to prevent it from seeping into the wrong parts of your face. Down a few drinks and you could easily forget this. Finally, in a party setting, you may not always be asked about your medical history (Botox is off-limits to people who are allergic to eggs, for instance) or briefed on possible short-term complications such as drooping eyelids or muscle weakness–concerns that might just add a few years to your face.
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