Your Medical Tests Explained

The procedure can irritate your bladder, causing you to pee more than usual. Minimal pain, some cramping, and a light, watery discharge are common for 1 to 3 weeks; take an NSAID painkiller and wear a sanitary pad. Don't use tampons, have sex, or exercise until your doctor says it's okay.

Essential tips: If you're perimenopausal or have never been pregnant, your cervix may be extremely tight. Ask your doctor for a cervix-softening medication.

You should get results: If it works (it provides significant relief for 90% of women), within several months.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

You need it if: You have skin cancer.

How it works: After numbing the lesion with local anesthetic, the surgeon removes the cancer one layer at a time to preserve the greatest amount of healthy skin and examines the tissue under a microscope. The surgeon keeps removing layers until there are no more cancerous cells. Small and shallow wounds heal without stitches; larger ones may need sutures or even skin grafts over several months. Excising each layer takes about 15 minutes; repairing the skin can take from 30 minutes to several hours. With local anesthetic, pain is minimal. Afterward, expect some swelling or bruising, which can be lessened by icing, and moderate pain, eased with acetaminophen or an NSAID. For a day or two, some clear or pinkish-yellow liquid might drain from the site.

Essential tips: Avoid alcohol and aspirin, which can increase bleeding, for several days. Your surgery could take all day, with long waiting periods, so bring snacks, water, something to read, and any meds you take during the day. Ask for dissolvable stitches so you don't have to return to have them removed.

You should get results: You'll leave the doctor's office cancer free. Scarring is minimal, even when grafts are needed.

Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

You need it if: A mammogram or sonogram turns up a lump.

How it works: During the procedure, you lie facedown on an exam table, your breast protruding through an aperture. The radiologist compresses your breast in a mammogram-like machine and numbs it with local anesthetic. Then the doctor makes a tiny nick, inserts a needle, and vacuums out some tissue. Don't panic if you feel a lump at the site after the procedure. A little blood sometimes collects there, but it should go away in a few days to a few weeks. Don't exercise or lift anything heavy for a day or two.

Essential tips: If you have a cold, you may want to reschedule; the radiologist can't do the biopsy if you're coughing.

You should get results: In 2 to 3 days.

Stress Echocardiogram

You need it if: You've been experiencing chest pains or shortness of breath, or you're over age 50, sedentary, and have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

How it works: In his office, your cardiologist first screens your heart with an ultrasound machine to measure how well it works at rest. If you check out okay, you hop on a treadmill with the doctor standing beside you; electrodes attached to you monitor your heart rate on an electrocardiogram machine (EKG), and a cuff measures your blood pressure. The treadmill starts off slowly and speeds up every few minutes until you are tired or the doctor stops the test because you have symptoms or an abnormal electrocardiogram. A technician screens your heart by ultrasound again, and the doctor monitors your blood pressure and heart rate to see how long they take to return to normal.

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