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There's Tests
and Then There Are Tests!
(Medical Tests)

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 14 in the May 2-3, 2009 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health, Wellness & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

I saw a sheepish fellow at the office whose wife had booked his appointment. He informed me that he is 50 years of age and it is high time that I do the "finger test" and he refuses to take no for an answer. I obligingly asked a lot of probing questions and had him change into a gown and proceeded to examine his prostate. I then sent him for blood-work and asked him to return the following week. "Awful nice of you doc, but my wife really thinks I should also get that finger test done" was all he said. Bewildered, I approached his wife in the waiting room who shed light on the matter by inquiring about the status of his "finger-prick" test for diabetes. Maybe it is time to clear the air on some similar sounding terms in medicine, especially for the weary husbands who get booked for surprise physicals.

Colonoscopy, Cystoscopy and Culposcopy, the 3-C's. Colonoscopy is an examination of the large intestine using a video camera. It is used to screen for early bowel cancer and assess the health of the colon. Culposcopy is an examination of the cervix with a microscope. It is used to identify small abnormalities. Often times, a laser can be used at the same time to destroy the abnormalities. I would not recommend this test for men, who sometimes come in asking for one. Cystoscopy refers to an examination of the urethra and bladder with a small flexible camera in both men and women.

Bone Scan, Brain Scan or Bone Density. Bone Densitometry is an x-ray test that can determine how much calcium is contained within the bones. It is most commonly used to identify osteoporosis. A Bone Scan involves injecting a small bit of harmless radioactive isotope into the body and tracking where it tends to accumulate. It is used to identify areas of increased blood flow seen in injury, cancer and inflammation. A Brain Scan is a short form that often refers to a Computed Tomography and involves high speed rotating x-rays to view the brain and identify disorders such as tumors and bleeding.

PAP test and PSA test. The Paptest was named after Dr.Papanicolaou, and is used exclusively in women. A smear is taken from the tip of the cervix, stained with dye, and microscopically examined for any unusual cells. A PSA test is for men only. It is a blood test that measures the level of a naturally occurring protein produced mostly in the prostate. It is usually coupled with the more traditional male digital prostate exam, in which the doctor assesses the prostate by feeling it directly with an often-times gloved finger inserted by way of the rectum. This test has the highest office joke potential. It is also the reason most men refuse to divulge an upcoming physical exam date to their co-workers.

EMG vs EKG vs EEG. Anything with the word “electro” in it is not only scary but confusing as well. EKG and ECG both refer to electrocardiogram, and depend on which side of ocean you come from. It refers to looking at the electrical activity on the heart surface by placing sticky pads across the chest. The most common use is to check for heart attack activity. An EEG is an electroencephalograph and also looks at electrical activity, but in the brain. Small electrodes are placed on the scalp surface. It is most often used to look for seizure activity. An EMG is an electromyogram and checks how well nerve signals travel down arms or legs. It can identify areas that cause pinching and hence pain.

With a little knowledge you too can become a savvy health consumer. I hope that you find some time to capture the true essence of Thanksgiving. Take a minute to appreciate the wonderful country we call Canada, and to share a meal with friends and family. Let others know what you are thankful for!

Related resources:

Medical Tests from UCSF Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco.
Medical Tests and Tools A-Z from WebMD.com.
Medical test from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Medical Procedures and Medical Tests A-Z list from MedicineNet.com.

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