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The medical tests you don’t need

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Medical tests are costly, time-consuming and anxiety-provoking. Some are even risky. You're probably getting some tests that you don't need. You can say "no" to them.

Kelly Gaulke remembers being told she didn't need an annual pap smear.

"You think if you don't screen me, what if something happens?" said Gaulke.

"They're anxious, they're anxious. They are so used to doing this once a year," said Dr. Kristy Weaver with Specialists in Women's Care.

Dr. Weaver knows it's unnecessary with the type of testing used now and how slow cervical cancer grows.

"These ladies with normal paps can feel reassured waiting three to five years depending upon their age range for their next pap smear," she said.

She still recommends annual check-ups. For those under 21, no paps at all. And to get a prescription for birth control pills, you do not need pap or even a pelvic exam.

Those are among dozens of unnecessary tests listed in "Choosing Wisely" a campaign from national medical specialty groups. The lists are based on the best evidence.

"It is a matter of challenging our long-held and ritualistic beliefs," said Dr. Lee Norman, the chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Hospital.

He also said "Choosing Wisely" is also about easing the fears of patients and doctors.

"We're afraid we're going to miss something. They're afraid they have something," said Dr. Norman.

Among the tests you don't need? Imaging for headaches if you don't have other symptoms.

"A headache alone is not a reason for a CT or MRI," said Dr. Norman.

Also, no imaging is recommended for low back pain within the first six weeks. It doesn't improve outcomes. It does increase costs and CT scans boost your exposure to radiation.

Let's cover the common screening Janice Greer is having for osteoporosis.

"I want to make sure my bones are fine," said Greer.

But if you're a woman under 65 or a man under 70, you don't need bone density screening unless you're at high risk for brittle bones.

Take a break in the restroom. There's no need to give up that urine sample unless you have symptoms such as burning.

"It's not necessary as a routine test. The little urine dip stick has a lot of false positives and false negatives," said Dr. Norman.

And when there's a false positive result, meaning a test shows something is wrong when it really isn't, it can result in even more unwarranted testing.

The doctors say reducing it comes down to having a regular doctor and good rapport.

"I have a doctor who sits and talks to me and really explains it so I'm not nervous about it," said Gaulke.

She is happy not to have certain tests.