Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Should women have regular ultrasounds?"
Does it make sense for women to get regular ultrasounds? I've never heard of people using them preventively, but ever since I had a tumor removed that was discovered by ultrasound, I've wondered if it makes sense to get them more often - especially if they don't carry the cancer risks that x-rays do.
This is a question that is being debated among the health care community and the answer you get may vary from physician to physician. Thus, my answer may differ from your own doctor's. This is because you may have special circumstances in your past medical history that will play a role in the decision.
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As of right now, there are no recommended screening ultrasound tests. This is because no studies have been done on how effective they would be in preventing cancer or other diseases that could be detected by ultrasound. While ultrasounds (especially pelvic ultrasounds) can be very helpful in women who have pelvic pain, they would not be that helpful in women without symptoms. The reason for this is the false positive phenomenon. When tests are done on people without symptoms, there is a good chance that something will be found that looks abnormal on the ultrasound but turns out in the end to be normal. This would put many women through the distress of additional imaging, painful and risky biopsies, and emotional stress of undergoing these tests. The false positive phenomenon is the reason why the United States Preventative Task force recently recommended that women between 40 and 50 years old with no family history of breast cancer should not get yearly mammograms. These issues are controversial and therefore you need to discuss them in detail with your doctor. I suggest you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or OBGYN. Bring this issue up with him or her. Likely, you will be able to get a straight forward answer that is specific to your particular needs and risks. Good luck.
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