5 Expensive and Unnecessary Health Checkups Doctors Avoid

Introducing 5 expensive and unnecessary health checkup items that doctors do not recommend.

Selecting a health checkup package often leads to many people pondering, “Are these tests really necessary?” Today, we’ll look into 5 health checkup items that even doctors avoid, exploring the necessity and outcomes of these tests to find answers for pursuing an efficient and healthy life.

1. PET/CT Scan

PET/CT (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography) scans are used to identify areas with active glucose metabolism, such as the spread of cancer, brain, and heart activity. However, this test poses significant radiation exposure, making it one of the most dangerous among health checkup items.

According to a 2009 study in Hong Kong, one in 300 people who undergo a PET/CT scan may develop cancer. Additionally, the cost of this test is around 1 million KRW, making it very expensive. PET/CT scans are more suitable for checking the recurrence of cancer after treatment. It is more advisable to focus on checking the recurrence of specific diseases rather than regular health checkups.

PET/CT scans use radioactive isotopes to image areas in the body where glucose is highly consumed. This method takes advantage of the characteristic that cancer cells consume more glucose than normal cells. However, this characteristic also appears in various pathological conditions such as inflammatory diseases, so a positive result does not necessarily mean cancer. Moreover, the high radiation exposure can be harmful in the long term.

PET/CT scans are more useful for tracking the progress of already diagnosed cancer or checking for recurrence rather than initial cancer diagnosis. It is particularly important for patients at high risk of recurrence after cancer treatment. Due to these characteristics, it is classified as an unnecessary test in general health checkups.

2. Echocardiography

Echocardiography is used for diagnosing heart failure, valvular disease, heart defects, and arrhythmias. However, in healthy individuals, the information obtained from echocardiography is minimal. If there are no impediments to daily activities, there is no need to undergo echocardiography. Instead, after the age of 50, more useful information can be obtained through coronary artery CT.

Echocardiography uses ultrasound to assess the structure and function of the heart. It allows detailed observation of the heart valves, wall thickness, ventricular size, and heart contraction function. It is an essential test for early detection of heart failure or heart valve abnormalities in symptomatic patients.

Coronary artery CT involves injecting a contrast agent into the blood vessels to visualize the coronary arteries directly. It plays a crucial role in predicting and preventing heart attacks by assessing the condition of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.


3. Abdominal CT

Diseases of the stomach, intestines, liver, and gallbladder can be checked with gastroscopy, colonoscopy, and upper abdominal ultrasound. These tests can sufficiently confirm the conditions, so there is no need to undergo additional abdominal CT, which exposes one to radiation. Considering radiation exposure, abdominal CT is not an essential test item.

Abdominal CT scans provide high-resolution cross-sectional images to examine the detailed structures of abdominal organs. They are very useful for diagnosing tumors, inflammations, and bleeding in the abdomen. However, due to the high radiation exposure, it is better to avoid abdominal CT when other diagnostic methods are available.

Gastroscopy directly observes the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, essential for diagnosing diseases of the digestive system. Colonoscopy examines the inside of the colon, crucial for diagnosing and preventing colon cancer and polyps. Upper abdominal ultrasound is used to evaluate organs such as the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidneys, conducted safely without radiation exposure. Therefore, to avoid redundant tests and reduce radiation exposure, it is better to utilize these alternative tests.

4. Lumbar CT, MRI

It is acceptable to undergo CT or MRI for diagnosis if there is back pain or discomfort, as prescribed by an orthopedic surgeon or neurologist. However, undergoing lumbar CT or MRI for health checkups without specific issues is unnecessary. Lumbar tests are only needed when there are symptoms.

Lumbar CT and MRI create cross-sectional images of the body using radiation and magnetic fields, respectively. CT is better for showing hard structures like bones, while MRI provides detailed images of soft tissues.

Causes of back pain vary, including muscle or ligament injury, disc herniation, and spinal stenosis. When such pain exists, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis through lumbar CT or MRI. However, for healthy individuals, these tests are unnecessary, especially considering radiation exposure and high costs.

To prevent back issues through health checkups, regular exercise and maintaining proper posture are crucial. These lifestyle improvements significantly help maintain back health.

Brain CT, MRI

People who frequently experience headaches or head pain may consider undergoing tests. However, what can be detected by brain CT and MRI is limited. Instead, many doctors recommend brain MRA. Brain MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) can provide detailed diagnosis by clearly imaging blood vessels.

Brain CT and MRI visualize the brain’s structure using radiation and magnetic fields, respectively. CT is quick and useful in emergencies like brain hemorrhage, but involves radiation exposure. MRI, with its high resolution, is used for diagnosing brain tumors, stroke, and dementia.

However, brain CT or MRI may not be useful in general health checkups. This is because, in the absence of symptoms or if symptoms are mild, the likelihood of detecting significant abnormalities is low. Instead, brain MRA is advantageous for early diagnosis of cerebrovascular diseases as it accurately assesses blood vessels’ condition.

For those at high risk of cerebrovascular disease, regular blood pressure management and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are important. These preventive measures greatly help in maintaining brain health.



Health checkups are crucial tools for early detection and management of an individual’s health status. However, not all checkup items are necessary for everyone. Avoiding unnecessary tests and choosing essential ones is a wise way to save time and costs and reduce unnecessary health risks such as radiation exposure.

  • PET/CT scans are useful for checking cancer recurrence but are not recommended for regular health checkups. Due to high radiation exposure and costs, they should only be performed when there is a specific need.
  • Echocardiography is useful when heart disease is suspected but is unnecessary for asymptomatic individuals. Instead, after the age of 50, coronary artery CT is more efficient for early detection of cardiovascular disease risks.
  • Abdominal CT should be chosen to avoid redundant tests and reduce radiation exposure, considering gastroscopy, colonoscopy, and upper abdominal ultrasound can provide sufficient information without radiation exposure.
  • Lumbar CT and MRI are needed only when there is back pain or symptoms. For asymptomatic individuals, these tests are unnecessary, and regular exercise and proper posture maintenance are more important.
  • Brain CT and MRI are better suited for individuals at high risk of cerebrovascular disease rather than general health checkups. Brain MRA is more suitable for early diagnosis of cerebrovascular diseases by accurately assessing blood vessels’ condition.

Ultimately, health checkups should be tailored based on an individual’s health status and risk factors. Avoiding unnecessary tests and choosing only essential ones play a crucial role in maintaining an efficient and healthy life. When planning health checkups, make wise choices considering your health status and lifestyle. Such choices will be the most effective way to protect your health.

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