Decisions About Medical Tests
See a list of
Decision Points about medical tests. Decision Points are designed to guide you through key
health decisions, combining medical information with your personal values
to make a wise health decision.
are important tools, but they have limits. Informed consumers know medical
tests have costs and risks as well as benefits.
Learn the facts
- What is the name of the test, and why do you
- If the test results are positive, what will the doctor do
- What could happen if you don't have the test?
Use this medical test information form(What is a PDF document?) to help you.
Consider the risks and benefits
- How accurate is the test? How often does it
indicate that a problem exists when there is none (false-positive result)? How often does it say there is no problem when there is one
- Is the test
painful? What can go wrong?
- How will you feel
- Are there less risky options?
Ask about costs
- How much does the test cost?
there a less expensive test that might give the same information?
If a test seems costly, risky, or not likely to change
the recommended treatment, ask your doctor if you can avoid it. Try to agree on
the best approach. No test can be done without your permission, and you have
the right to refuse a test.
Talk to your doctor
- What are your concerns about the
- What do you expect the test to do for you? Are your
- What prescription and nonprescription
medicines are you taking?
- What other medical conditions do you
- Do you prefer to have the test or not?
If you agree to a test, ask what you can do to reduce
the chance of errors. Should you restrict food, alcohol, exercise, or medicines
before the test? After the test, ask to review the results. Take notes for your
home records. If the results are unexpected and the error rate of the test is
high, consider redoing the test before basing further treatment on the