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Ask Dr. Gott 4/4
Is so much testing really necessary?
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DEAR DR. GOTT: I have yearly mammograms and last year had to go back in for an additional one, followed by an ultrasound. Fortunately, all they found was a cyst.
    The technician who performed the ultrasound told me he had been at his job for 25 years and had done extensive research on cysts. In all his research, he said he never, ever had a cyst become cancerous. But he forewarned me that the doctor would want me back in at least six months just to be sure.
    I cut way back on caffeine intake and fatty foods. I returned at six months to find the first cyst gone, but I now have two smaller, new ones. Now they have requested that I return every three months for the next year.
    I want to take care of myself, but, in my opinion, enough is enough. Insurance covers the first mammogram, but everything else is out of pocket until I reach my deductible. We have one son in college and another quickly approaching college as well. I don't have money to throw away on something that really isn't necessary. Is this a case of doctors being way too cautious, or is there really a need for all of this concern?
    DEAR READER: Breast cancer is currently a public-health menace, even though treatment has significantly lowered the death rate.
    I am not a specialist in breast cancer, so I can't rule on whether your doctor's approach is appropriate. I suggest that you meet with your gynecologist to discuss your concerns. Your doctors are being rightfully cautious. Nonetheless, your financial concerns are valid. The only way to determine whether further testing is necessary is to undergo repeat mammography. You need peace of mind in knowing the status of your health. Some degree of flexibility and compromise is in order, such as a mammography twice a year instead of every three months.
    Finally, enlist the assistance of your doctor in appealing to your insurance company to grant you special consent for the mammograms. This testing is not for routine screening; rather, it was recommended by a specialist to discover possible breast cancer in a woman at risk.
    Generally speaking, insurance companies will pay for more frequent mammograms if they are coded properly and indicate an abnormality with a possible underlying problem. Discuss this situation with your physician as well as with the radiology department of your local hospital. The procedure may require prior authorization as simple as a telephone call.
    The bottom line is that your health comes first. What you need now is resolution: what testing should be carried out and on what schedule. I am certain that by working with your doctor, you can resolve this issue. Let me know the outcome.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a free copy of my Health Report "Breast Cancer and Disorders."
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